This Virgin Classics disc, recorded in 2003, is now re-released
under the prize-winning rubric festooned on its cover – Gramophone
and Penguin Guide recommendations, which are as prominent
as competition accolades on a bottle of wine. In this case, however,
such affirmation is entirely justified because these are sensitive,
mature and thoroughly convincing performances.
said Tetzlaff and Andsnes take a rather refined, elegant approach
to Bartók’s sonatas. Note the violinist’s eloquent, supple and
light bowing in the Allegro appassionata of the First Sonata.
The playing is not as richly suggestive or as coloured as other
performances but its rhapsodic milieu is acutely located nonetheless.
Similarly the nocturnal centre of the movement is unerringly
expressed, finely juxtaposed with the more militant, tonality-shaking
episodes that surround it. The refined lambency of the slow
movement reinforces such perceptions and with the super-fine
balance between instruments this and the driving finale show
Tetzlaff and Andsnes at the top of their form.
Second Sonata allows the intellectual parameters of the players
even greater room for manoeuvre. This is compelling playing,
allowing the music’s elasticity and its moments of fugitive
impressionism a just equipoise. Furthermore the half glints
and deft shadows embodied in the Allegretto finale are brilliantly
realized by both men, whose use of dynamic variance is entirely
at the music’s service. When we reach Tetzlaff’s performance
of the solo sonata we feel in sure technical and stylistic hands.
His tone is pure and concentrated, he retains instrumental surety
even in the highest positions; the pizzicati in the Presto ring
out and whilst Tetzlaff can be astringent he never turns glassy.
only reservation relates to the particularity of their approach
to this repertoire. As long as you appreciate that this is,
in string quartet terms, more Juilliard than Végh, then you
will not be disappointed. Tetzlaff doesn’t cultivate rusticities
of tone, nor rip-snorting timbral breadth. But he is a highly
sympathetic explorer of this repertoire who has tightened up
and signally improved upon his earlier Bartók performances on
disc. Andsnes is a similarly subtle partner, especially good
at those moments of introspective intimacy; this is some of
the best playing of his that I’ve heard. Together the two men
constitute a formidable ensemble, to be ranked alongside Faust
and Kupiec (HMN91 1623) as individualists of note in this repertoire.