About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Bowing the Light Fantastic

New York
Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
10/28/2010 -  

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, op. 4
Jean Sibelius: Suite for Violin and Strings, Op. 117 (New York premiere)
Franz Josef Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D Minor

Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Christian Tetzlaff (Violinist and Conductor)

C. Tetzlaff (© Giorgia Bertazzi)

Now this was a rarity! An opening work where one artist played four different roles. In the Mozart Third Violin Concerto, Christian Tetzlaff was concertmaster, conductor, soloist and composer as well.

Granted concertmaster and conductor are two sides of the same coin. But Mr. Tetzlaff also composed the pair of cadenzas, and of course was the bright-hued light-winged soloist for this most charming work. Mr. Tetzlaff didn’t worry excessively about conducting. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, about the same age as the 44-year-old soloist, is no Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and does need a conductor. But once Mr. Tetzlaff gave the downbeat with his bow, the orchestra played well on its own.

The Concerto itself had a jolting opening, sudden bursts amidst the graceful themes. But Mr. Tetzlaff’s violin, modeled on a prized Guarneri del Gesù, was bowed with a bright, lean tone, never allowing the violin to become too deep, but keeping to the wonderfully youthful spirit of the 19-year-old composer. (He actually composed all five of his concertos the same year!) Mr. Tetzlaff’s cadenzas were short and delightfully sweet.

The violinist’s other work was only eight minutes, but almost certainly a New York premiere. Sibelius wrote little after his Seventh Symphony except Pelleas and Melisande. This Suite for violin and Strings was perhaps his final work, but it was not one of those petty salon pieces which he wrote in his youth.

In fact all eight minutes and two of the three movements were more than charming. The first, “Country Scenery” had a bumptious opening four measures which could have come from (gulp) Aaron Copland. Then it was pure Sibelius at a country dance. (Some 40 years ago, I went to a country dance in Karelia province, and the lively polkas and waltzes could have come from the 18th Century!) The final moment was a perpetuo moto against pizzicato strings which was so quick and modestly delightful that even the audience chuckled at the sudden ending.

In this program of light-hearted works by serious composers, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night was the exception. Perhaps the Orchestra of St. Luke’s wasn’t in the mood, but it was not especially impressive. This is such a powerful, moving, poetic narrative work that maybe only the most dedicated conductors (like Chailly or Boulez) can bring out the almost unbearable intensity. St. Luke’s gave a decent performance, but one never felt that the notes were aching, that the story was poetry as much as prose.

Thus, it was so nice to return to Josef Haydn’s rarely played practical joke, the 80th Symphony. Steven Ledbetter is probably the best program annotator working today (I believe he lives in Boston, so we are lucky to have him), and his description of the first movement cannot be improved. “Haydn enjoys playing the game of ‘What next?’: thunderstorm or waltz?” In other words, this is both sturm und droll!. Haydn’s pranks continue all the way to the end, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s played it with polish, suavity and straight faces, allowing Papa Haydn’s notes to exercise their own ribaldry.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com