The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Christian Tetzlaff (violin) Steve Davislim (tenor) Vienna Singverein, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
Composer: Szymanowski

With a conductor as brilliantly analytical as Pierre Boulez in charge of Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto it would be easy to get swept up in the orchestral filigree at the expense of the soloist. But in Christian Tetlaff, Boulez has the ideal interpretative partner, one who emerges organically from the orchestral exposition and soars above the composer’s seductively coloured landscape, exhibiting both agility and grace in the violin line’s almost consistently high tessitura. He injects a little more passion into his playing than does Thomas Zehetmair in the most obvious rival recording, conducted by a similarly revelatory master, Simon Rattle (EMI), and this contrasts well with the delightful sense of free spirit he brings to the merry dance of the ‘scherzo’ music and the sultry melancholy he injects into the habanera-like close.

The ever-questing Boulez, making his Szymanowski debut on disc at the age of 85, also conducts an atmospheric account of the mystical Third Symphony, which, together with a recording of great presence (made in Vienna’s Musikverein), makes this disc a must for both Tetzlaff devotees and lovers of early 20th-century opulence.

Matthew Rye