Christian Tetzlaff – Violin Concertos by Brahms and Joachim

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Violin Concerto No.2 ‘In the Hungarian Manner’, Op.11

Christian Tetzlaff (violin)

Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard

Recorded in Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen – 30 November & 1 December 2006 (Brahms) and 23-24 March 2007

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: February 2008
5 02109 2
Duration: 78 minutes



It’s a good idea to couple these two violin concertos together (even if your reviewer must admit to not really having registered that violinist Joseph Joachim wrote one let alone three such works!) – for Brahms composed his much-played example for Joachim and the two enjoyed many years of friendship as contemporaries. (Brahms was born in 1833, Joachim two years earlier.)

This recording of the Brahms, when weighed against the oh-so-many already available and even on its own terms, falls into the ‘interesting’ category, a ‘swings and roundabouts’ interpretation that begins with a lyrical, gently modulated orchestral opening under Thomas Dausgaard that is also occasionally clipped and thrown away. (Two steps forward, one back.) The sound of the orchestra, as recorded, is a little too lean and dry; however, detail is clear and attack incisive. (Something of a trade-off.) Christian Tetzlaff’s first entry, feisty and demonstrative, is also slightly unkempt, enough to suggest a live performance. (No such claim is made in the annotation.) Some of Tetzlaff’s non-upholstered tones and some of the contrasts – musical and dynamic – seem just a little too premeditated, in a reading that is a rather too consciously ‘classical’ without being rigid. (Yet the lack of a unified pulse is unsettling in the wrong way.)

A highpoint comes with Tetzlaff’s essaying of Joachim’s first-movement cadenza – in the context of this release he could only choose Joachim’s original contribution (although there are fine alternatives including ones by Busoni and Reger) – in which his refusal to indulge is refreshing and there is plenty of tender reflection in its aftermath. The second movement, quite slow and intensely moulded, is slightly marred by a breathy-sounding oboe solo (and if not from that instrument then from another) and the finale, rather clipped and with what might be termed the ‘Hungarian accents’ lacking conviction, comes across as brusque rather than exhilarating. More incisive timpani would have been welcome and Tetzlaff’s leaning-to-‘authentic’ timbres becomes somewhat wearing because of their thinness.

But it’s the Joachim that’s the thing, full of Magyar colours and sentiment – and Joachim was Hungarian (Austro-Hungarian would be reasonable passport information) – music from the fields and hills, a touch of folklore, a hint of drama, some nice tunes and an unpredictable approach to traditional form. Joachim’s Second Violin Concerto (written many years before Brahms wrote his sole model) is in a three-movement design similar to what Brahms would later do. (What am I suggesting!) While Joachim’s concerto is no masterpiece, it is good to know it. Stylistically, one hears some reference to Mendelssohn (generally and not often) and, more conspicuously, Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, although this too was composed long after the Joachim. (Posterity may not have been kind to Joachim’s seminal abilities.)

Cards on the table – the Joachim is no masterpiece but it is immensely likeable and enjoyable (certainly in the large-scale first movement and the dashing Paganini-pyrotechnics that dominate the finale) and is played here as a significant work. Tetzlaff brings out the fire and gypsy-passion of the music and finds more colour and refulgence than anywhere in the Brahms, the latter now seeming rather anaemic in comparison. Furthermore, balances in the Brahms are inconsistent, whereas the Joachim is better recorded overall (if not the last word on audiophile excellence). For the sake of the Joachim, this release is well-worth considering – it is superbly performed by all concerned and proves something of a treat.

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