It’s always heartening to see the Wigmore Hall filled to capacity, particularly when the fare is hard-core chamber music, and doubly so when the audience includes droves of music students eager to see how things are done by the best players in the world. And it’s no surprise that the German violinist Christian Tetzlaff – accompanied on the piano by his compatriot Lars Vogt – should fill the house, given that the spell cast by his artistic brilliance and his penchant for seeking creative challenges is compounded by a remarkable back-story.
For Tetzlaff suffers from neurodermatitis in his left hand: this can cause extreme pain when the fingers are applied to the strings of a violin. He has learned to manage this pain, including by the use of cotton thimbles to cover his fingers, but the fact remains that for him to make his living as a violinist amounts to a crazy heroism.
Nothing could have been more straight-forward than the programme on this occasion: Brahms’s three violin sonatas, followed by a Brahms encore. And it allowed us to savour Tetzlaff’s unusual artistry. No other violinist so steadfastly abjures the seductive capacities of their instrument, its luxurious warmth and potential range of colour. Tetzlaff goes for absolute clarity of detail and purity of intonation, and as a result Brahms’s dramatic and melodic richness here shone very brightly.