Correction to This Article
The concert review referred to a European piano trio as the Christian Tetzlaff Trio and questioned the choice of that name. The group, however, does not use the name. Wolf Trap hosted the concert and promoted the trio under that name, but the group - Christian Tetzlaff on violin, Anja Tetzlaff on cello and Lars Vogt on piano - has no official name.

Christian Tetzlaff Trio at the Barns at Wolf Trap

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff.
Violinist Christian Tetzlaff. (Alexandra Vosding)
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Monday, March 1, 2010

The oddly named "Christian Tetzlaff Trio" made its debut at the Barns at Wolf Trap on Friday evening, occasioning some head-scratching. The German piano trio's eponymous violinist is indeed a major star, but what is his sister Tanja (the cellist) -- chopped liver? Their pianist, Lars Vogt, when not touring with the Tetzlaffs, is playing concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras. And in this ensemble, the pianist gets most of the notes. Not even the jumbo-size ego of Isaac Stern required his celebrated piano trio to be named after him.

Once past that, we were treated to what had to be the quietest performance of a Schubert trio ever rendered. Clocking in at nearly 50 minutes (thanks to a long first-movement repeat and the restoration of several extended passages excised by the composer before publication), this rendering of the Op. 100 trio was marked by the most literal renderings of Schubert's softest dynamic markings, often for extended paragraphs of music. This of course made the loud outbursts very effective -- almost shocking -- but the lack of overall warmth eventually felt sterile.

There were no such shenanigans in the great Shostakovich Trio; here the players dug gutsy, guttural sounds out of their instruments, and the keening finale was particularly well drawn. The ending of the piece -- perhaps the most frightening major-key ending in all music -- was icy and heart-stopping. Notwithstanding the limelight-hogging name, Christian Tetzlaff blended fully and even self-effacingly with his partners.

-- Robert Battey


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