It’s probably unheard of to write about the encore first in a review, but in this instance there is much to be said.
Ignoring the fact that I think encores are superfluous and generally intrusive, the one offered by violinist Christian Tetzlaff and his pianist partner Lars Vogt after a wonderful recital on Friday was totally inappropriate.
After a world-stopping unfolding of the silky glories of the great Sonata by Cesar Franck, the last thing one would have wanted to hear was the spiky, mechanistic finale from Bartok’s First Sonata. To hear the whole piece in a proper context would be fine, but here it just seemed to be an opportunity to indulge in virtuosic display in fact unnecessary after the consummate musicianship displayed throughout the evening.
The Franck had been magnificent, suave, its curves gorgeously shaped, the night-ride of its allegro a fiery interlude, and everything allowed to speak with unaffected simplicity from this admirable duo thinking as one. Its structural strength was gently conveyed, its veiled eroticism, taking us from Wagner forward to early Schoenberg, was delicately delivered, and the ending pealed like bells. If only we could have been allowed to take those sounds home with us.
Bach’s F minor Sonata made a formidable, searching opening, Vogt’s pianism measured and tactful, Tetzlaff knowing when to take centre-stage and when to provide subservient lines in the counterpoint.
And Brahms’ A major Sonata was given with a pleasing lightness of touch and emotional restraint, whilst building up paragraphs of intensity with irresistible persuasion.