Violinists Tetzlaff, Weithaas infuse recital with joyous energy

By Matthew Guerrieri
Globe Correspondent / May 2, 2011

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ROCKPORT — One walked out of Christian Tetzlaff and Antje Weithaas’s duo-violin recital in Rockport on Saturday edified, invigorated, and, frankly, a little punch-drunk, having been engulfed by a wall of sound seemingly out of proportion to eight strings and two bows.

The pillars of their program sketched a history of the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing with three pivotal violinist-composers: Jean-Marie Leclair, the Baroque founder of the French school; Charles-Auguste De Bériot, whose Romanticism underpinned the school’s Belgian branch; and Eugene Ysaÿe, whose legendary playing was the apotheosis of the style. But in reinterpreting the school’s characteristic silken polish in more visceral terms — and in dialogue with radical, earthy duos by Béla Bartók — Tetzlaff and Weithaas found novel reserves of energy.

The pair made a seamless match. Interpretively, they seemed to tackle each phrase with the hope of making a discovery, surprising the listener by keeping open the possibility of surprising themselves. Their high technical accomplishment, reveling in a distinctly athletic joy, communicated a sense of the exhilaration at surmounting each challenge.

Leclair’s Sonata in D major (Op. 3, No. 6) had more than a touch of clean, tensile early-music tautness, but also precipitate daring, the Allegro’s back-and-forth crackling and bright. The pair made high contrast between the finale’s courtlier passages and its heavy, rustic drones, a sound echoed in the “Transylvanian Dance’’ that opened their first Bartók group, drawn from his 1931 set of 44 Duos. The pieces highlighted the performers’ facility with quick-change timbres and the physicality of their sound: No. 28 (“Sorrow’’) a thick impasto of keening, No. 42 (“Arabian Song’’) switching channels between ingenious exoticism (especially Weithaas’s serpentine low-string flautando) and exuberant stridency.

Bériot’s G minor Duo Concertante (Op. 57, No. 1) picked up on that bold approach, the bel canto-inspired phrases amplified into something closer to verismo; but it never felt distorted, more a realization of the music’s dramatic potential. Another round of Bartók duos was more reserved, as in the discreet lyricism of No. 20 (“Song’’), or the honed murmur of No. 22 (“Mosquito Dance’’), punctuated with delectable dropped-anchor accents.

The same accents hammered open the door of Ysaÿe’s A minor Sonata for Two Violins, a tempest of late Romanticism from which Tetzlaff and Weithaas, with both bracing roar and bated, intense quiet, summoned expressionistic qualities. It was a renewal of the repertoire emphatic enough to leave the ears buzzing.

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at


Presented by Rockport Music

At: Shalin Liu Performance Center, Saturday