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Virtuoso violinist Christian Tetzlaff and friends explore the rich contrasts of chamber music.

Last together at 92Y to perform Beethoven’s violin sonata cycle, violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Alexander Lonquich return with composer-clarinetist Jörg Widmann, cellist Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Cristina Barbuti for three nights of boldly contrasting chamber music.

Jörg Widmann is truly a marvelous player… [it was] as tenderly beautiful as any performance I’ve heard.”—Daily Telegraph (London)

Christian Tetzlaff, violin / viola
Tanja Tetzlaff, cello
Jörg Widmann, clarinet
Alexander Lonquich, piano
Cristina Barbuti, piano

WIDMANN: 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book I
MOZART: Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F major, K. 497
MOZART : Piano Trio in E major, K. 542
BARTÓK: Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano

This concert is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes in duration.

Please note all weekday concerts now begin at 7:30 pm.

 

The Contrasts series is supported by an endowment gift from Joan L. and Dr. Julius H. Jacobson, II.

Christian Tetzlaff & Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K.218 – Rondeau: Andante Grazioso
(EMI/Virgin Classics)

Explore The Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

Contrasts, an Introduction

by Christopher Cerrone

The music of Mozart, endlessly imaginative and foundational in the Western art canon, plays a prominent role in this series of three concerts which 92nd Street Y has appropriately named Contrasts. The series showcases a musically rich and diverse array of composers with Mozart as the palliative to the other more piquant musical flavors; these other flavors are the music of Bela Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, and the German composer Jörg Widmann. The joy of Mozart’s musical world is that it can easily tease out connections between these other musics. For example, Mozart was obsessed with the clarinet, which is featured throughout the Contrasts series. In addition to the “Kegelstatt” Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano heard on April 18, he composed his clarinet concerto, a clarinet quintet, and prominently featured the clarinet the “Gran Partita” Serenade and the Requiem. He even wrote a piece for five clarinets alone!

The clarinet features prominently in the Bartók, Widmann and Messiaen pieces in the series. In Bartók’s Contrasts (originally written for Benny Goodman) on April 16, the clarinet plays a demanding and soloistic role. Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) on April 20, features a 9-minute-long solo clarinet movement, entitled “Abîme des oiseaux” (“Abyss of the Birds”). And Widmann is a world class clarinetist whose works often feature highly idiomatic and virtuosic clarinet writing. In Widmann’s works he often explores the fantastic technical resources of the instrument: the ability to play fast runs, enormous dynamic range from nearly inaudible to loud and strident, and a chameleon-like quality which allows the instrument to blend with any other instrument, as Widmann does to such powerful effect in his Nachtstück for Clarinet, Cello and Piano on April 18.

In between these works are duos by Mozart and Widmann which are chamber music in the truest sense of the word. Mozart’s works for piano four-hands, which will be heard on April 16 and 18, were often performed in small salons among music lovers, doubtlessly with the composer at piano. Widmann’s 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, likewise heard on April 16 and 18, have a similar quality; despite their sometimes (in his words) “brittle” exterior, the works often also display the quality of a conversation among old friends, sometimes amiable, sometimes argumentative, but always intimate.

© 2013 Christopher Cerrone

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WIDMANN: 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book I

JÖRG WIDMANN

Born Munich, June 19, 1973
24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book I
Composed in 2008; 18 minutes

Jörg Widmann’s best known music is that which features a deep exploration of his instrument, the clarinet. But in the 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, we are privy to another aspect of his compositional world: his careful and detailed writing for strings. In the same way Widmann mines the clarinet’s ample timbral resources in his composition, he asks the string players to perform in a wide variety of ways in his Duos. Not only are they asked to dig, scrape, pluck and play with unusual mutes, the players are also asked to play lyrically and traditionally. In this sense, Widmann is a truly postmodern composer: he embraces the widest possible sound world, but also acknowledges the sounds, forms and references of the past. In his music, any sound is possible, including familiar ones.

Each of the 13 short duos heard on this program are a character study. The first duo is a play in contrasts: sharp and sudden gestures are juxtaposed against almost inaudible ones. The second duo is Bartók-like, with a heavy and rhythmic character. The third, too, recalls Bartók, but this time it is his night music: the sounds are muted, quiet, modal and expressive. The fourth duo is reminiscent of Baroque music in its careful use of imitation, but the sharp and dissonant intervals call out “new music!” The fifth duo is soft-spoken and aphoristic, reminiscent of Webern. The sixth is even shorter, but memorable for its violent and jarring sounds. The seventh flows like a single instrument, the two voices almost—but not exactly—in unison. The eighth duo is a play of timbres: the instrumentalists play near their bridges, on their bridges and on the “wrong” side of their bridges, too.

In the ninth and tenth duos, earlier themes begin to return, while the eleventh is the most extreme in its use of unusual playing techniques. The brief twelfth movement is followed by the final duo, the thirteenth, which is played with metal practice mutes. This renders the instruments distant and nearly inaudible. Perhaps the composer—who wrote the works in Dubai, far from his homeland—is recalling memories that were then distant in his past.

© 2013 Christopher Cerrone

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MOZART: Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F major, K. 497

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

Born Salzburg, January 27, 1756; died Vienna, December 5, 1791
Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F major, K. 497
Composed in 1786; 28 minutes

Mozart’s four-hand sonatas were written to be performed by professional and amateur keyboard players alike. They can easily be played at home among friends, and yet also—unlike so much other casual chamber music of the time—the care and craft put into these compositions makes them compelling concert works. In the F-major Sonata, the elaborate themes, innovative use of sonata-form and ornate counterpoint distinguish it from contemporaneous works.

The first movement is structured like a cavatina and cabaletta, an operatic form where a slow and lyrical introduction is followed by a fast and ornate movement. And so the sonata begins; after a long and lyric opening pregnant with dramatic pauses, the first movement flies forward. The central development section is filled with almost Bachian counterpoint, where Mozart fully utilizes all four hands in full force. The first movement is also notable for its sharp and sudden contrasts between loud and quiet (shades of Widmann); a contemporary listener should note that this must have been a shockingly new kind of sound on the only recently invented fortepiano.

The second movement is a long and serene Andante. Unlike many other works of the time, the second movement is also cast in a sonata form, where the two themes presented at the beginning are then set in careful and elegant counterpoint in a central section before returning to a recapitulation of the opening themes. This kind of elaborate treatment of a slow movement is a new innovation in Mozart’s work; before this, slow movements were often merely short transition pieces. Mozart’s sonata foreshadows the complexity of Beethoven and other romantic composers who would embrace slow movements as the most expressive part of their works. The final movement of the sonata is a jaunty Allegretto in rondo form. The movement features ample opportunity for the two pianists to display every aspect of their keyboard playing skills, including long and fast runs and careful and precise staccato rhythms.

© 2013 Christopher Cerrone

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MOZART: Piano Trio in E major, K. 542

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

Piano Trio in E major, K. 542
Composed in 1788; 20 minutes

Mozart’s Piano Trio in E major was composed just two years after the F-major Four-Hand Sonata. Like the F-major Sonata, it was written for amateur players. Also like the Sonata, the careful composition and working out of individual parts for each musician shows that Mozart was not just composing gebrauchsmusik (“music for use”) but rather, music that could be heard at either at home or in concert.

The Trio is also a major piece in the development of the piano trio as a genre. The music critic Richard Freed has noted that “[w]hile so many piano trios of this period seem to be little more than solo pieces for the piano with occasional embellishment by the violin and cello, Mozart gave the string instruments more substantial material and more equal footing with the piano part [...] thereby producing a rarity in its time: a piano trio with more or less equal prominence for the strings.” In the opening movement of the Trio, we hear this immediately. After a brief introduction mostly for piano alone, the violin introduces the first theme. The cello then enters, playing a lyrical counterpoint to the melody. Finally, all three are brought together as full and equal voices.

The second movement continues the same idea; the piano enters alone, but is soon joined by its two partners. In this movement, Mozart’s careful writing for the string instruments is revealing; we often hear a theme begun on the violin and completed with the cello. By composing in this careful way, Mozart helps us hear the carefully wrought structure of his movement. A spirited Allegro, replete with concertante parts for each of the three instruments closes the Trio.

© 2013 Christopher Cerrone

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BARTÓK: Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano

BÉLA BARTÓK

Born Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary, March 25, 1881; died New York, September 26, 1945
Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano
Composed in 1938; 17 minutes

Contrasts was originally written for the unlikely and illustrious combination of the great jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman, famed Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti, and Bartók himself at piano. Contrasts is characteristic of the compositions that Bartók was writing at the time. It synthesizes his experimentation with avant-garde dissonance and his work researching the folk music of his native Hungary.

Bartók exploits both in the first movement, entitled “Verbunkos,” which is a Hungarian military dance. The movement begins with pizzicato in the violin set against a modal clarinet melody. The syncopated rhythm of the clarinet, with the emphasis of the beat is characteristic of Hungarian folk music. As the music proceeds, Bartók superimposes music from different keys. Each layer is very simple, but together, it creates unique but not astringent dissonances. The movement ends with a cadenza that allows the clarinetist the opportunity to show off the high and brilliant runs characteristic of Goodman’s jazz performances.

The next movement, “Piheno” (Relaxation), is night music. It recalls the sounds of insects at night with the high register in the violin, while the piano blows in and out like an unwelcome gust of wind. The music floats without a sense of pulse, and when the piano finally enters playing on the beat, the sound is ephemeral and scarcely audible. The movement becomes briefly animated with a tremolo in the violin and trills in the clarinet, but quickly subdues back into its quiet state.

The final movement—“Sebes,” or Fast Dance—requires a detuned violin, where the violinist plays a slightly demonic part on open strings (a reference, no doubt, to Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre). After an animated beginning in Bulgarian dance rhythms, the music falls to a hush where the clarinet plays a noble melody against a high pulsing piano. The violin joins in as the music builds back to a boisterous finale (with not a few more “Benny Goodman” notes).

© 2013 Christopher Cerrone

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Artist Bios

Christian Tetzlaff

Christian Tetzlaff is internationally recognized for his musical integrity, technical assurance and intelligent, compelling interpretations who gives 100 concerts a year.

Mr. Tetzlaff began his 2012/13 season in August performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with David Zinman and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, where he is artist in residence. He returned there earlier this month for a chamber music concert and performances of the Berg and Sibelius concertos.

His other recent and upcoming activities include concerts with the Berlin and New York philharmonics and the New World, London and Pittsburgh symphonies; a European tour with the Tetzlaff Quartet, which he co-founded; an Asian tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, recitals and chamber concerts in Berkeley, London, Miami, and Santa Barbara, and a performance of the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin at the Vienna Konzerthaus.

Mr. Tetzlaff's discography includes solo works, chamber music and concertos. His recent recordings include Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Vienna Philharmonic and Pierre Boulez for Deutsche Grammophon; and Schumann’s complete music for piano trio with cellist Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes for EMI. Mr. Tetzlaff plays a violin by German violinmaker Peter Greiner. His website is christian-tetzlaff.com.

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Tanja Tetzlaff 

As a successful chamber musician and concerto soloist, cellist Tanja Tetzlaff has built an extensive repertoire reaching into the 21st century. She has played with many worldrenowned orchestras, among them the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Orquesta Nacional de España, the Orchestre de Paris and the Cincinnati Symphony.

Ms. Tetzlaff also frequently gives recitals in such concert series and music festivals as the Heidelberger Frühling and the festivals of Bergen und Edinburgh, and she is a regular guest at the Heimbach Festival. Together with violinist Florian Donderer, she organizes a concert series at the Sendesaal Bremen and with her brother Christian she formed the Tetzlaff Quartet.

Ms. Tetzlaff opened her 2012/13 season with festival appearances that included the Grant Park Festival in Chicago, and a performance with the Montreal Symphony and Kent Nagano. Earlier this year the Tetzlaff Quartet toured the cities of Berlin, Cologne, Freiburg, London, Oslo, Paris and Zurich. In June she will perform the Brahms Double Concerto with her brother in Münster.

Among Ms. Tetzlaff’s growing list of recordings is a disc of cello concertos by Rihm and Toch with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Mr. Donderer. She has also participated in chamber music recordings by Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Sibelius, Schoenberg, Enescu and others. Ms. Tetzlaff plays a cello by Giovanni Baptista Guadagnini made in 1776.

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Jörg Widmann 

Jörg Widmann is both one of today’s most sought-after composers whose award-winning works range from solo pieces to operas, and a virtuoso clarinetist who is highly regarded as a chamber music partner and who has had several works dedicated to and premiered by him.

As a composer, Mr. Widmann’s season began with the premiere of his lavish, epic opera Babylon at the Bavarian State Opera in October. Among his major works is a trilogy for large orchestra based on the principle of transferring vocal forms to orchestral writing. He has served as composer-in-residence for the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin (DSO); the Lucerne, Salzburg and Schleswig-Holstein festivals; the Vienna Konzerthaus and Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Cleveland Orchestra.

As a performer, Mr. Widmann has appeared with the world’s major orchestras.Works that have been written for him include Musik für Klarinette und Orchester by Wolfgang Rihm, Cantus by Aribert Reimann and Rechant by Heinz Holliger. Among his upcoming chamber music activities, he will be the guest of the Hagen and Signum quartets.

Mr. Widmann also continues his role as Principal Guest Conductor of the Irish Chamber Orchestra; this past weekend he led the ensemble in a program of Rossini, Mendelssohn and his own Trumpet Concerto in Limerick and Dublin. Mr. Widmann holds professorships for clarinet and composition at the Freiburg Hochschule für Musik. His website is joergwidmann.com.

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Alexander Lonquich 

Since winning the First Prize at the “Antonio Casagrande“ International Piano Competition in Terni, Italy, at the age of 16, Alexander Lonquich has enjoyed a prolific career around the world. Beginning in the the 2014/15 season, he will be artist in residence of the Musikverein Graz.

Mr. Lonquich has enjoyed successful soloist engagements with the Czech, Royal, Slovenian and Vienna philharmonics; Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and Düsseldorf Symphony, to name a few. His appearances as conductor/soloist have earned critical acclaim, appearing with the Camerata Salzburg, the Frankfurt Symphony and the chamber orchestras of Basel, Bremen, Mantua, Munich and Stuttgart.

Mr. Lonquich’s many chamber music partners include violinist Leonidas Kavakos, violist Veronika Hagen, cellists Steven Isserlis and Heinrich Schiff, oboist Heinz Holliger, clarinettists Sabine Meyer and Jörg Widmann, and the Auryn and Carmina quartets. He last appeared at 92nd Street Y in autumn 2007 for the complete Beethoven sonata cycle with Christian Tetzlaff.

Mr. Lonquich’s recordings have won such awards as the “Diapason d’Or” in France, “Premio Abbiati“ in Italy and Edison Prize in the Netherlands. Last September ECM Records released a CD of Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor, together with Noskowski’s The Steppe. In February 2012 ECM produced an all Schubert disc with Mr. Lonquich and violinist Carolin Widmann, sister of Jörg Widmann, and in March 2011 Mr. Lonquich joined Mr. Holliger to record Schumann’s “Kreisleriana“ and Holliger’s own Partita.

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Cristina Barbuti

Pianist Cristina Barbuti excels in multiple arts and disciplines. She attended the music academies of Ferrara and Brescia, the Sándor Végh Academy of Chamber Music in Prague and the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem while simultansously studying classical ballet and modern dance. Parallel to her artistic studies, Ms. Barbuti studied philosophy, psychology and education at the University of Florence, and from 1988–1991 she was a lecturer for the Italian department at UCLA. She is currently on the faculty of Sapienza University of Rome.

As a musician, Ms. Barbuti appears as soloist and chamber music partner across Europe and in Israel and the US. She has joined Alexander Lonquich to form a highly successful piano duo that has toured with orchestras like the Camerata Salzburg and the Mantua and Stuttgart chamber orchestras. She participated in Willy Merz: Dépaysements, a recording of chamber music by the Swiss composer on the label Stradivarius that was awarded four stars by Le Monde de la musique.

Ms. Barbuti has also been working with musicians, actors and young people to create performances that combine theater, music and social research to address societal issues. Known as the Villon Ensemble, in 1999, it premiered Hyle, which examined environmental contamination.

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IN THE NEWS: From The Guardian (UK)—A Guide to Jörg Widmann’s Music
 

IN THE NEWS: Christian Tetzlaff profiled in The New Yorker, 8/27/12

 

 

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