The Strad Issue: January 2015
Description: Searching and haunting accounts of Shostakovich’s two concertos
Musicians: Christian Tetzlaff (violin) Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John StorgŠrds
Composer: Shostakovich

Christian Tetzlaff might have been born to play the Shostakovich concertos. His questing spirit, penetrating tonal inflections and clarity of vision are ideally suited to music that restlessly probes the dark side of the human psyche. Cast in four movements, the First Concerto progresses remorselessly from a searingly desolate nocturne, through a whiplash scherzo and icy passacaglia to a burlesque finale of pulverising intensity. Tetzlaff traces the harrowing emotional narrative of the opening movement with unflinching insight, employing striking interpretative metaphors, almost at times as though he dare not activate his violin strings for fear of being discovered by the ghost of Shostakovich’s political nemesis, Andrei Zhdanov. In Tetzlaff’s skilled hands the scherzo becomes a heavily sardonic, exhausted cry of protest that collapses into the freezing embrace of the passacaglia.

Tetzlaff’s musical soliloquising of Shostakovich’s most intimate thoughts and fears spills over into the haunting expressive terrain of the Second Concerto, whose parenthetic, autobiographical musical quotations are subtly absorbed into a shadowy sound world haunted by spectral imaginings. It is a less physically imposing work than its predecessor and Tetzlaff responds with a silvery-toned espressivo that captures its remote atmosphere to a tee. John StorgŠrds and his Finnish players follow him every inch of the way, enhanced by wide-ranging sound of unusual richness and depth.