Majestic and dynamic, Tetzlaff delivers a season highlight with Bach

By Lawrence Budmen

Christian Tetzlaff performed music of Bach and Brahms Friday night at New World Center.

Two solo violin works of Johann Sebastian Bach and a late Brahms chamber score made up the program for Christian Tetzlaff’s superb performances Friday night at the New World Center. Combining awesome technique, patrician musicianship and formidable artistic intellect, Tetzlaff was in prime form.

A stellar Baroque stylist, Tetzlaff has recorded the complete Bach solo partitas and sonatas. Opening the program with the Partita No. 2 in D minor, Tetzlaff played with spare vibrato, producing a pure, refined sound. Eschewing the overly reverent approach of some period instrument players, he brought a strong artistic personality and intense emotion to Bach’s writing. Subtle variants of dynamics graced the dance movements.

At times Tetzlaff shaded his tone down to the softest whisper. The opening Allemande was fleet and the rhythmic bounce of the Courante exhilarating. Producing a richer sonority, Tetzlaff captured both the elegance and pathos of the Sarabande, the repeated trills deftly assayed. An invigorating Gigue mixed buoyant dance with an impressive display of virtuosity.

The concluding Chaconne is one of Bach’s most noble creations and one of the most difficult works in the violin repertoire. From the strongly expressive opening chords, Tetzlaff offered an unhurried journey through the thirteen-minute set of variations. He brought a sense of inevitable majesty to the musica line, seamlessly achieving variations of mood and pulse. Tetzlaff masterfully conveyed the sunlight of the sudden shift to a major key and the glorious sonority of the variation on the open A string. Bringing interpretive depth to every bar of this monumental finale, Tetzlaff offered great Bach playing and artistry of the highest order.

Tetzlaff’s precision bowing swept through the alliterations of three-and four-notes chords in the stately Adagio that opens Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major. His clarity in the multiple voices of the Fugue was strongly achieved, the movement flowing with lightness and brio. The Largo proved the highpoint of the performance, Tetzlaff bringing a song-like passion and gravitas to the unadorned melodic line. A brisk, enlivening reading of the Allegro assai capped a splendid exhibition of bravura and musical insight, perfectly balanced.

Tetzlaff was joined by four members of the New World Symphony for Brahms’ Quintet No. 2 in G Major. The players rose to the occasion, playing with tight ensemble in a performance both earthy and refined. A veteran chamber player, Tetzlaff provided strong leadership without ever dominating the music making. The lyrical themes of the first movement were exquisitely phrased. Tetzlaff and Elizabeth Phelps’ silky violin tone beautifully contrasted with the mellow lower string contingent. Anthony Parce and Elzbieta Weyman captured the deep undertones of Brahms’ dark writing for two violas and cellist Kevin Kunkel blended mellifluously with the ensemble.

The emotional undercurrents of the Adagio were strongly charged, the melodic repetitions enlivened by astutely terraced dynamics. Both the swaying rhythm and pensive, elegiac sadness of the Allegretto were emphatically accented. A high-energy account of the concluding Vivace was flavored with a touch of gypsy seasoning. The ensemble playing was so precise and well integrated that it was difficult to believe the players were an ad hoc group.

Throughout the concert, an audience that included many New World Symphony players and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas awarded Tetzlaff repeated, well-deserved standing ovations.

Christian Tetzlaff plays Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the New World Center in Miami Beach. The program also features Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with soprano Kiera Duffy. Both performances are sold out but there may be returned tickets and there will be a wallcast of the Saturday concert. 305-673-3331;

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Sat Apr 27, 2013
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