If you are curious about where violin performance is headed in the 21st century, you would do well to listen to Christian Tetzlaff, who appeared solo as part of the CAMA Masterseries at the Lobero on February 11. He’s a magnificent physical specimen, the Fritz Kreisler de nos jours, and he commands the stage with impeccable posture and a barely perceptible but still potent swagger. He presents his modern Greiner violin squarely to the hall, achieving maximum projection, but it would be a big mistake to understand this man’s art as merely the next highest level of technical accomplishment. What Tetzlaff is really about, especially in these solo recitals, and in terms of his potential impact on the next generation of violinists, are the microtones—the incredibly precise and expressive playing that he does at the sonic limits of the instrument. The evening began with a dramatic reading of Eugne Ysaye’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27. The connections to Bach were, as always with this work, explicit, but the pumped up attention to detail and dynamics, especially when the score called for tremolo near the bridge, made for a memorable performance. The evening’s highlight came next, in a sizzling Bach Violin Sonata No. 3 that was about as pure a piece of music making as will be heard hereabouts this season. Tetzlaff succeeded in creating that unmistakable sensation that occurs whenever the ultimate objective of polyphony is reached: the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand on end, and for a moment the eternal tension between freedom and fate seems negotiable.
The second half of the program, while slightly less exalted, was nevertheless entirely welcome for all those who care about 20th century music. A series of miniatures by Kurtag were exquisite and weird at the same time, and the Bartok sonata for violin was thrilling. Thanks to CAMA for continuing to program the world’s most impressive musicians into the Lobero.