BRAHMS: Double Concerto; VIOTTI: Violin Concerto No. 22 in A minor; DVORAK: Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68/5 – Chistian Tetzlaff, violin/ Tanja Tetzlaff, cello/ Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/ Paavo Järvi – Ondine ODE 1423-2 (9/18/23) (60:43) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Recorded 21-23 December 2022, this program could bear the rubrics “reconciliation” and “consolation” for its musical content, since the project means to pay tribute to the Tetzlaffs lamented, artistic partner, pianist Lars Vogt (1970-2022). The conductor originally involved with the recording, Robin Ticciati, had to withdraw due to illness, and Paavo Järvi, no less a friend and admirer of Lars Vogt, stepped in.
From the opening cello cadenza, the music seems to invoke a plea for compassion and understanding, especially given the historical, 1887 context, which had incurred a social distancing of Brahms and his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, with Brahms’s having sided with Joachim’s wife after divorce proceedings. The academic aspect of the Double Concerto, its allusions to Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and direct quotes from Viotti’s A Minor Violin Concerto, fuse a massive orchestral tour de force with a chamber music medium, a hybrid of breadth and intimacy. Along with the sheer, virtuoso fluency of Christian and Tanja Tetzlofff, the orchestral tissue as led by conductor Järvi bears a consistent intensity, certainly a rival to the great, past collaborations by Heifetz and Feuermann, Oistrakh and Fournier, Szeryng and Starker. Christian Tetzlaff’s tone rings with the kind of yearning sentiment we recall in the work of Yehudi Menuhin. The old Brahms motto, F-A-E (frei aber einsam), here presented as a permutation, A-E-F, would have had immediate appeal to violinist Joachim, especially since Brahms contributed to the FAE Sonata of 1853 that realized the talents of Brahms, Joachim, and Albert Dietrich.
The lovely Andante in D Major, ¾, opening for the duo in octaves, admits the notion of blissful collaboration, to which the orchestra adds a bucolic, lyric element, reaching almost a point of static poignancy. Järvi and ensemble assume a relatively brisk tempo in this second movement, not opting to linger in maudlin meditation. The last movement, Vivace non troppo, 2/4, enjoys a fervent dash appropriate to the gypsy style Brahms honed while a youth who collaborated with violinist Remenyi. The buoyant interplay of the major parts, confirming the notion of the composition’s being essentially a symphony with concertante duo parts, extends to the open-work from flute and woodwinds. The evolution of the descending, main theme soon switches into the major mode of A for a muscular, decisive coda.
Of the 29 violin concertos written by Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824), that in A Minor, No. 22 (1794), stands out for its combination of galant and virtuoso styles. Viotti, the founder of the modern, French school of violin practice, conceived this concerto for the London audience. It first made an impression upon this reviewer via Isaac Stern, both with Eugene Ormandy on record and with Pierre Monteux in performance at Tanglewood. The 1953 Carnegie Hall collaboration by Yehudi Menuhin and Dimitri Mitropoulos realizes the Fritz Kreisler edition of the score. Brahms pays homage in the clarinet part of his Double Concerto, quoting the five-note sequence: D-F-E-D-F and its permutations that Joachim would intone with his own fervor. Conductor Järvi sets a delicately brisk pace for the opening Moderato, which soon introduces the sweet countertheme and its lively postlude, rife with rocket figures. Brahms called the work “one of my very special raptures.” The orchestral episodes, tutti, project the pomposo flair that Paganini will seize upon and exploit, even as the lyric element offers a pre-Bellini bel canto line. Tetzlaff’s rapid passagework rather dazzles in its easy fluency of execution, shifting seamlessly into Viotti’s ornamental arioso. The first movement cadenza plays like a preparatory study for any number of Paganini caprices.
The second movement, Adagio, conductor Järvi sets as andantino, urging the sequence-based melodic line along so Tetzlaff might show off his easy facility in pre-Bellini bel canto style. That Brahms would adapt the use of sequences in his own melodic formulas and development sections has become common parlance. The last movement, Agitato assai, hustles vigorously, displaying Tetzlaff in command of a light, flexible bow style, staccato and spiccato, easily reminiscent of the bravura stye set by Ruggiero Ricci and Salvatore Accardo. No less virtuosic are Viotti’s harmonic shifts, allowing his abrupt changes of mood and meter a dramatic flair. The interplay of violin and flute parts enjoys the sonic resonance afforded by Recording Producer and Mixer Christoph Franke.
The disc concludes with cellist Tanja Tetzlaff in concert with conductor Järvi in Antonin Dvorak’s Silent Woods (Waldesruhe) of 1883 (rev. 1893), here, a declaration of tearful memory and contemplation of the late Lars Vogt. The piece had been conceived for piano four hands, the fifth part of the cycle. Marked Lento e molto cantabile, the opening part in D-flat Major captures the ecstatic serenity in Nature, a glowing pantheism. The flute adds the eternal song to be found in woodlands. The middle section, Un pochettino più mosso sings in the manner of Tchaikovsky, in the dark, enharmonic color of C# Minor. The Lento returns, more illumined, to resolve into a coda of evaporating bliss.
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