Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tetzlaff, CSO make Brahms breathtaking

From by Janelle Gelfand on 4/17/09

Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major is one of the great masterpieces for the violin that is often over-romanticized. On Friday, violinist Christian Tetzlaff brought his distinctive voice to Brahms with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the result was both a breathtaking display of virtuosity and music that seemed to come straight from the heart.

Tetzlaff was soloist with Paavo Järvi conducting an engaging program, which included the orchestra’s first performance of Mauricio Kagel’s Etude No. 3 and Berlioz’s orchestral music from his dramatic symphony “Romeo et Juliette.”

Tetzlaff grew up in Hamburg and lives in Frankfurt, Germany, but in the ’80s, he spent a year studying with Walter Levine at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Now 43, he is an artist in his prime, known as much for his intelligence and impeccable technique in the classics as for his probing performances of Bach and new music.

So it was interesting to see what he would do with Brahms. This was impassioned Brahms, with electricity in the virtuosic passages, and sweetness in the lyrical phrases. But it was also striking for its lightness, shorter phrases and minimum use of vibrato, which created a pure tone. You got the feeling, as the violinist communicated with brilliance, warmth and imagination, that this was the way Brahms would have wanted it to be played.

The first movement’s cadenza matched precision with breathtaking fireworks. The concerto’s heart is the slow movement, which in Tetzlaff’s hands seemed deeply personal. He felt every note in his body, and as the finale traveled between rhapsodic melody and dance music, he almost danced along with it.

Järvi and the orchestra made an inspired collaboration, and Dwight Parry contributed a beautifully phrased oboe solo in the Adagio. With the crowd on its feet with ovations, Tetzlaff provided an encore: The Largo from J.S. Bach’s Sonata in C Major, playing it like a god.
The evening opened with Kagel’s Etude No. 3 (1996), which Järvi aptly described as “a kaleidoscope of rhythm and sounds.” A coloristic piece, it was unexpectedly perky and humorous, and its ethereal central section reminded one of Asian bells. Ultimately, the piece was organized by rhythm, and a spectacle for percussion and brass brought it to a cacophonous climax.

To conclude, Järvi revisited the orchestral music from Berlioz’s “Romeo et Juliette.” This was a vivid and powerful performance, and the orchestra played with exceptional polish. Of the four movements extracted from the odd mixture of symphony and cantata, the “Love Scene” and the “Queen Mab” scherzo were the most rewarding. Berlioz’s “Love Scene” was one of the most sublime moments of the season, with warmly sounding low strings doubled in the horns. Järvi balanced its fresh, impassioned moments with tender ones. The scherzo was simply magical.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www.

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