Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Reed Tetzloff, Schumann, Carnaval, Sonata op.11


If "September Song" is in my head, it is partly because I write these lines early in September of the current year, and too because pandemic and climate change can remind us that nobody lives forever. And what of it? There is while we linger over a cup of coffee sweet music, in this case the lyrically, expressively alive pianist Reed Tetzloff and his volume of Schumann gems for solo piano (MP Master Performances 21 001). It reminds us that great music transcends all everyday concerns and allows us for a time to commune in tones in a way that makes us somehow better creatures, for a moment a little immortal as a species? I think so.

Reed Tetzloff is new to me. This volume however tells me much about his thoughtful musicality. It is a well chosen Schumann program that includes an especially well-known referential piano suite, "Carnaval," and then a lesser-known, fully abstract absolute music essay in the "Grand Sonata No.1 in F sharp minor, op. 11." Then to cap it off there are the two fairly brief but most eloquent piano poems "Arabeske Op. 18" and "Romanze Op. 28, No. 2"

His is a tightly pithy set of readings, beautifully faithful to Schumann's score, yet no less expressively vibrant for being carefully correct. It is fitting that we get Tetzloff's take on the widely performed "Carnaval," since he covers the very familiar with a  personal sense of balance and a virtuoso stance that is nonetheless unhurried. 

The "Grand Sonata" is in some ways in a polar opposite direction--less well known, fully classicist and widely developmental in its attention to form without sacrificing feeling. Tetzloff gives us an excellent reading of this work as well, and since there are less versions of this work in recordings it is perhaps all the more valuable? Well the program would be unmistakably valuable whether he performed this one or not. Nevertheless the two works manage to balance one another well, and we are fortunate to have both versions here to play and replay.

The swirling passion of "Arabeske" clearly resounds in Tetzloff's imagination and we get a most lucid outpouring, all we might hope for. The final "Romanze" has a tenderness and depth that doubtless is a product of composer and performer communing across the centuries and amplifying one another.

Tetzloff's rubato is beautifully uncanny, never overwrought, like passages of music recalled later, after previously hearing them in real-time, so that the musical present is a kind of storybook past, a "once upon a time" in musical terms. Moreover his overall sense of pacing and drama is beautiful and somehow sensible in its "rightness" of phrasing, its poetry of sound. Do not fail to hear this if you seek exemplary new voices on the piano. Tetzloff gives us a Schumann that is remarkably clear of the hackneyed, the over-done, the grandstandingly frenetic. He negotiates some evergreen musical passages in ways that make you hear them as if anew. Bravo. Highly recommended.

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