Transition & Transformation

Shai Wosner
New York Sun


Late into Friday night, violinist Christian Tetzlaff appeared cabaret style at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. He brought with him a superb accompanist and three composers on the cutting edge.

One of these daring experimenters was Mozart. Mr. Tetzlaff chose two of the mature sonatas for violin and piano and quickly established his credentials as an insightful and inquisitive explorer of older scores.

The Sonata in B flat major, K. #454 - the "K" or Koechel catalogue number indicates the place on an historical calendar in which the piece was composed and ends in the low 600s - began with a flourish, pianist Shai Wosner riveting the attention of the sold-out crowd immediately. Mr. Tetzlaff plays with high intensity and is especially adept at separating each and every one of his notes. There is never any seamless transition - what devotees might label portamento but detractors would call slurring - from one tone to the next. This modern European is as aware of the spaces between the dots on the printed page as he is of the sounds themselves. I have found his somewhat forensic approach a poor fit for works such as the Tchaikovsky concerto or the three Brahms sonatas in the recent past, but for Mozart it is eminently satisfying.

Since Mr. Tetzlaff is in New York quite a lot - he will be traversing all of the Beethoven sonatas this season at the 92nd Street Y - the find of the evening was Mr. Wosner, who magically transformed his modern pianoforte into a late 18th-century fortepiano by keeping his feet off of the pedals and matching his partner in lapidary note definition. Both artists were masters of their instruments, Mr. Tetzlaff even turning pizzicato passages in the Sonata in G major (K. #379) into ukulele styled strums by holding his violin at waist level.

It is easy to confuse the composers Kurtag and Ligeti. Both were named Gyorgy, both born in the Transylvanian region of Romania, both were Jewish, and both crossed into Hungary to study music. But Kurtag is more of a miniaturist than Ligeti, and this evening, the Tetzlaff-Wosner duo - they were by now not soloist and accompanist but rather full partners - offered a thrilling performance of Kurtag's "Tre Pezzi," Op. 14c from 1979, giving the violinist the opportunity to intone at his spectral best, sometimes employing a mute to establish a quiet, transparent, transubstantiated world of sound. The Mostly Mozart brochure had promised Webern, but this substitution inhabited that same rarified, hallucinatory world of high altitude and thin air.

All ended with a lively and yet thoughtful account of the Sonata ofMauriceRavel. YehudiMenuhin used to tell the story of how he was taking a lesson in the Paris apartment of his teacher George Enesco when Ravel burst in with the ink still wet on the manuscript of this new piece and the two great men performed it through twice with robust enthusiasm (undoubtedly Enesco at a much higher level than the pianistically challenged composer). This was totally a new sound - fresh, vibrant, and a little scandalous. Messrs. Wosner and Tetzlaff dove deeply into its forbidden harmonies and rhythms, expertly applying subtly syncopated rubato as appropriate. Mr. Tetzlaff lowered his instrument to his belt once again and strummed it like Django Rhinehardt's guitar for just the right touch of Le Jazz Hot, although the second movement, titled Blues, could have gone even farther down and dirtier.