The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: A brave coupling of two 19th-century violin concertos
Musicians: Christian Tetzlaff (violin) Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Composer: Mendelssohn & Schumann

The first fruit of Christian Tetzlaff’s partnership with Ondine, this disc could prove a real test of his popularity in the marketplace. Schumann’s Violin Concerto has long been considered unworthy of the composer, not least because it is melodically diffuse and confirms his mental and musical deterioration. His Fantasy op.131 has fared little better.

Tetzlaff makes a reasonable fist of the Concerto; indeed, its vein of introspection seems to suit him. His intense, poetic account of the melancholy slow movement is especially effective, but like many before him, he fails consistently to convince in the uneven outer movements, particularly in the prolix first. Nevertheless, the virtuosic, dance-inspired finale has some pleasing moments. Assisted by Paavo Järvi’s flexible direction, his account of the Fantasy is more persuasive, but not even his refined artistry can rescue this banal score.

Tetzlaff is on more familiar territory with Mendelssohn’s op.64. He is tenderly expressive in the first movement’s lyrical sections, but the cadenza and solo passagework seem rather matter-of-fact. He shapes the line of the Andante with thoughtful spontaneity and his quicksilver finale is a tour de force: light, clean and exhilarating, with detailed orchestral texture and every note in place. The recording is full-bodied, vivid and appropriately balanced.