Friday, April 26, 2013

Christian Tetzlaff Reached Out And Grabbed Me By The Throat

Last week I went to the 92nd St. Y to hear the last of a series of concerts putting Mozart in context, curated by the violinist Christian Tetzlaff and the clarinetist/composer Jörg Widmann. I promised myself that I wouldn't review concerts because the Invectivator's mission is to review reviewers. So I waited vainly for a New York Times review to come out so I could savage (or praise) whoever missed (or nailed) the point with their opinion on the concert. But I guess things were busy in NYC that Saturday night so there wasn't any press coverage of this concert. I wish one of the smarty pants at the Times could have written about whether or not a listener heard anything new in Mozart when he's lined up against the like of Widmann, Bartok or Messiaen, and Zachary Wolfe took a stab at it in his review of the first show of the series:

But he wasn't at the concert I went to so I missed the opportunity to take on his take. This is all to say that I heard a very beautiful, interesting concert...until the last ten minutes of the show when Christian Tetzlaff reached out and grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go until I was sobbing and begging for mercy. Not actually. The Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen has eight movements, it lasts for almost an hour. The last movement is scored for violin and piano. It's been a week and I'm still thinking about that moment. It was like Tetzlaff had been toying with us the whole show, playing the violin exquisitely, enjoying the company of his colleagues, letting them shine, allowing us tired, overwhelmed New Yorkers to bask in a relaxing evening at the Y. From the first note the Messiaen had an electric charge that the rest of the concert lacked. Everyone was together on stage for the first time and they seemed energized to be together.  And then, after seven gripping movements...

I'm just at a loss to describe it. The sound went HD. It went 3D. I felt a physical force drawing me into his violin. I was suddenly living at the contact point of his bow and the string. I got rosin all over me. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. I felt like I had intruded on something intimate, something too personal. I wanted to escape, to get away, to call the cops on this fucking criminal who was emotionally assaulting us. In sports they talk a lot about athletes having "another gear" for the playoffs and I think that's what we saw and heard the other night. A great artist pushing himself all the way through. I don't know if he always finds that gear, I've only heard him live a couple of times. I just feel very lucky to have been there that night. If you want to remember why live performances matter, do not miss this guy playing chamber music when he comes to your town. Congratulations also to all his colleagues from that night: Tanya Tetzlaff, Jörg Widmann and Alexander Lonquich.

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