A duo in perfect harmony and with a shared sense of mercurial mischief

Christian Tetzlaff: Beethoven

The Strad Issue: December 2021

Description: A duo in perfect harmony and with a shared sense of mercurial mischief

Musicians: Christian Tetzlaff (violin) Lars Vogt (piano)

Works: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas nos.6, 7 and 8, op.30

Catalogue number: ONDINE ODE1392-2

These are good (but expensive) times for collectors of Beethoven violin sonatas on disc. Hard on the heels of the above-mentioned Frank Peter Zimmermann and Martin Helmchen comes the long-established partnership of Tetzlaff and Vogt. Mercurial mischief sets them apart from their rivals – not just finishing each other’s sentences in the opening movement of the A major Sonata and the finale of the G major but daring each other on like naughty boys throwing water bombs or playing near a railway line. A high-risk strategy, but there’s always something to arrest the ear, such as the accents and hair’s-breadth bowing that lift the A major’s slow movement from placid lyricism, or the wait-and-see pauses and surprises lying around corners of the G major’s central minuet.

The booklet prints an absorbing conversation between violinist and pianist, in which they discuss the ‘cold fire’ of Beethoven’s C minor moods, and how in life ‘there’s a much greater art to being happy than sad’. Quite so, and the sonata’s Adagio cantabile is accordingly treated as an interior dialogue, as if distantly overheard from the front-line skirmishes of the outer movements. Taken at pace, almost (but never quite) tripping over itself, the Scherzo gains a quality of distracted, sublime silliness that feels true to the composer of the late bagatelles and ‘Diabelli’ Variations. The engineering is close but recital-hall realistic, with Tetzlaff standing towards the right.