Christian Tetzlaff — BEETHOVEN, SIBELIUS Violin Concertos – Ondine 

by | Sep 27, 2019 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 – Christian Tetzlaff, violin/ Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/ Robin Ticciati – Ondine ODE 1334-2, 71:22 (9/13/19) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Ever since I heard violinist Sergiu Luca perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto in New York with David Zinman, I have been fascinated by the issue of Beethoven’s original tempo markings – admittedly fast. The “streamlining” of the Concerto does tend to de-sentimentalize its character, here the concept no less supported by Tetzlaff and his personal approach, which may remind some of that of Jascha Heifetz. The phrases do not dally, nor do they linger: each period urges the ensuing horizontal lines in cut time along in what might be construed as a series of arch-forms. Most intriguing about the first movement, that is, the compelling element, will lie in the use of the tympanic cadenza Tetzlaff and conductor Ticciati employ, reminiscent of the 1994 Biddulph issue that had Ruggiero Ricci’s demonstrating the Concerto with a series of alternative cadenzas. Tetzlaff insists on incorporating the various ornaments and cadenzas in all three movements, and some auditors may find the result intrusive, even eccentric, rather than “authentic.”  The violin tends to embellish rather than expand upon the melodic line, and not until after the main cadenza does the violin sing the entire melody.

The Larghetto presents a different sonic image, the melody of 16 bars spread out in the form of a sweetly solemn march that at first approaches and then fades away. Though Beethoven has written sempre perdindosi – always forgetting oneself (mm 71-88) – if anything, this reading remains particularly self-conscious! The movement becomes a theme and variations with an extremely poignant middle section in G Major. The principals stress the intimacy of the moment, especially in those muted passages accompanied by soft horn work. With the big forte in the orchestra, Tetzlaff throws us the harmonic contour of the theme in a dissonant, ugly cadence that launches the elastic Rondo: Allegro. Tetzlaff injects the last movement with a kind of sizzle – it, too, interrupted by a playfully impish cadenza – that rather teases the figures in various registers and bowed applications. Tetzlaff and the bassoon solo cavort marvelously, dispelling anything like seriousness or the usual profundity for a jolly, even frivolous, hunting romp. The last pages cut the rope and burst through restraint and propriety with a virtuosic aplomb.

Tetzlaff’s approach to the 1905 Sibelius Concerto in D minor I find much more traditional, given the lean but muscular prowess the violinist injects, a quirky combination of Ricci, Kremer, and Heifetz. Tetzlaff can achieve a breathless, passionate ferocity in quick scale passages, while conductor Ticciati exults in the broad, melancholic brooding and menace in the work. Once more, the Deutsches Symphonie tympani exults in its often grinding activity. The consistently intense patina will find its culmination in the last movement, which Tetzlaff conceives as a danse macabre, replete with a banshee solo. Yet in the midst of tumult and emotional velocity, Tetzlaff maintains a flexible, resonant singing instrument before us, often a sad, voluptuous paean to Northern climes. The effect comes to the fore in the middle of the marvelous Adagio di molto, in which a sad dirge emerges from eighth notes against triplets. Violinist and conductor offer a studied but eminently affectionate reading of this work, which I find less problematic and stylistically ostentatious than the Beethoven.

Recorded October and November 2018 at two distinct Berlin venues, the sound reproduction remains quite vivid, the Beethoven having been captured in live performance.

—Gary Lemco


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