Saturday, December 18, 2010

Well, we liked it

A couple of weekends ago we went to see a rather remarkable concert--the German violinist Christian Tetzlaff playing the entire Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. I don't really have standing to offer trenchant criticism of the concert--I'm not really a violinist, and I'm not that familiar with the score. So, I used the concert as an opportunity to learn the music--follow along with the score in hand, see and hear the architecture of the music. Unsurprisingly, I'm convinced that the Sonatas and Partitas are really good stuff.

I can talk a little about the performance--Tetzlaff clearly can do whatever he wants on the violin, and some of what he did that night was really magnificent. He communicated the music clearly, and with enough freedom that it became personal. I particularly enjoyed his slower movements. I did take issue with some of the faster movements, especially the Gigues with which the suites end. These are supposed to be fast, but they are dances and should maintain their distinctive triple beat. However, Tetzlaff played them really really fast--so fast that they pretty nearly lost their beat, and just became a rapid-fire string of notes. However, on the whole, I really enjoyed the concert.

There were people there who did have standing to be critics; seated behind us was an older woman who also had the score with her. She worked as a violin teacher, and she said of his faster movements that "that's not the way I learned it. Perhaps he had a plane to catch."

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