This season’s artist in residence at Wigmore Hall is Christian Tetzlaff. Although the residency only amounts to four events, it should be enough to sketch a rounded portrait of a violinist who has an elegant, classical style of his own. The programmes encompass solo Bach, a quartet recital and, finally, violin duos preceded by an early evening “conversation” in May.
In this second recital, devoted to Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas, he was accompanied by one of his regular partners, pianist Lars Vogt. They make an ideally matched duo, both unflashy musicians and sharing the same inherited absorption in the German classical tradition that makes them natural interpreters of everything from Bach to Schumann, Mozart to, indeed, Brahms.
It is at least 10 years since they first performed the Brahms Violin Sonatas together (their live recording dates from 2002). No doubt that is why the give-and-take of these performances at Wigmore Hall felt so easy-going. The duo’s skill comes from an ability to draw the listener in, Tetzlaff’s violin speaking intimately as though one-to-one with each member of the audience, until the hall seems to shrink to the size of a drawing-room hosting a musical soirée.
Their performances here were lyrical conversations, not romantic grandstanding. Speeds were swift, articulation light and detailed. Everywhere was spring freshness, to the point where Brahms’s deep autumnal colours, so central to the palette of his music, were seriously missed. There was, however, much to enjoy along the way: the opening phrases of the First Sonata were tremulously voiced, as if Tetzlaff had only just thought of them; in the central movement of the Second Sonata, where the violin rises and falls in an arc, he sustained the line so beautifully that a single bow seemed to go on forever; and, when the Third Sonata raises the emotional temperature, the response from both players was quick and vital.
There was something of a Mozartian grace about their playing of Brahms, so why not Mozart as an encore? In the finale of the G Major Violin Sonata K.379, the one Mozart reputedly composed so fast that the accompaniment was not written down in time for the premiere, Tetzlaff and Vogt were witty, touching, a real delight.