Sonata in A for Piano and Violin, K526
Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano
Christian Tetzlaff (violin) & Lars Vogt (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 5 September, 2011
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
Contrasting violin sonatas formed the programme for the last in this year’s Proms Chamber Music series at Cadogan Hall. The established partnership of Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt looked at Mozart’s final sonata for piano and violin, written at the age of 31, and Bartók’s first published example in the form (he had already written three), composed at age 40.
Mozart takes a relatively expansive approach to form in this three-movement work, exploring lyricism in the slow movement but applying more energy to the faster music. The latter was very much in evidence from Tetzlaff and Vogt, who took the first movement at a brisk pace, leading to some constricting of the piano’s phrases in particular, with Tetzlaffsnatching at a few of the rapid descents. Both musicians missed some subtleties. Gradually things settled, and the softly voiced Andante found Tetzlaff applying more of a dolce tone. For the finale the bluster returned, though this time it suited Mozart’s Presto more appropriately, and Vogt applied some nicely shaped phrasing to the upper-register octaves.There are few niceties in the faster music of the Bartók, an incredibly muscular piece that demands much from performers and audience. The transition from the Mozart was eased by a brief chat with BBC Radio 3 presenter Catherine Bott. If conducted well these conversations provide insight into the forthcoming performance, and here the use of musical examples to illustrate Bartók’s thematic processes in the first movement was helpful, and possibly invaluable to first-time listeners.
Once began it was noticeable how Tetzlaff and Vogt were concentrating more, and also that there was a new-found intensity to their execution. Fortissimo passages were punched out by Vogt, barely concealing their violence, while Tetzlaff brilliantly applied Bartók’s folksy sleights of hand to the melodies. The jarring dissonances from the piano carried maximum weight, and occasionally one feared for the instrument, so strong were Vogt’s interjections, but there was delicacy too in the theme’s development and eventual reappearance. The finale was even more brutal, totally casting aside inhibitions in this high-voltage music. As well as giving maximum force to Bartók’s full-throttled allegros, the duo brought a very different intensity to the slow music with many expressive turns, Tetzlaff exploring the outer limits of pianissimo as the musicians focussed on an ideal mix of meditation and tension.
As BBC Radio 3 went off-air, Tetzlaff and Vogt gave a generous encore, the finale from Dvořák’s Sonatina (Opus100). With fresh melodic invention and touches of humour it made the ideal light-relief to the lean and muscular Bartók.