The temperature must have risen at least ten degrees during the second half of this Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt programme at Wigmore Hall.
It was pretty cool to begin with: circumspect Bach – the 5th Violin Sonata in F minor – marked, in the first page or two of the opening Largo, by a shade too much vibrato, almost as if Tetzlaff were attempting to warm the music and render it less austere than is customary. It was very 21st century – Tetzlaff playing on his own modern instrument and Vogt luxuriating in Steinway grand amplitude.
There was another thing, too: music on Tetzlaff’s stand. It was a BBC Radio 3 recording, I know, but music always comes between a performer and his audience and beautiful though both players’ responses were to the grand soaring lines of Brahms’ Violin Sonata No.2 in A there was no question that Tetzlaff, in particular, was psychologically – to use actors’ parlance – still “on the book”. With a player as special as this you know instinctively when the technique is not quite connecting with the emotional core of a piece. It was quite simply one of those performances which left you wanting more.
And, boy, did we get more. It could be, of course, that with Bartok’s huge and voracious Violin Sonata No.1 waiting to pounce from the other side of the interval that Tetzlaff and Vogt’s Brahmsian reserve was simply a case of pacing by design – at any rate, the music in this instance may physically have been on the stands but in every other respect it was back in the dressing room. From the very opening page where Tetzlaff seemed quite literally to hurl himself into the foaming rapids of the piano part this was an Allegro appassionato that was in every sense - livid.
The big surprise of this first movement is its nocturnal middle section, tremulous and expectant, a serenade of sorts but so very different from the spare, beautiful theme of the ensuing Adagio where transfiguration is the name of the game. Seeking inspiration in altissimo Tetzlaff seemed to spirit sounds from higher than a dog can hear until the opening theme was festooned in shimmering embellishments.
Both parties then powered into the dizzying finale, Tetzlaff shredding bow hair and Vogt stomping into piano part like his feet not his hands were going to do the business. This was country dancing as a blood sport, a whisker away from grievous bodily harm, sensationally uninhibited You could hardly recognise either player. Until, that is, they politely offered us genial Dvorak as a reassuring encore.