Reed Tetzloff: Sounds of Transcendence
Charles Tomlinson Griffes and the painter Mary Cassatt are the two most noteworthy Impressionists America produced. Yet Griffes’s now century-old masterpiece, the formidable Sonata, is rarely encountered in concert and represented by fewer than 20 recordings in current catalogues. Reed Tetzloff, the 25-year-old Minneapolis native who makes his impressive solo recording debut here, has not only exhausted every implication of this enigmatic work but seems delighted to share his discoveries. Rhetorical aptness is front and centre in the sonata’s first movement, as Tetzloff negotiates Griffes’s luxuriously sensual harmonic syntax with a sure sense of direction. The mysterious, dreamlike tranquillity enveloping the slow movement is deeply affecting. But it is mere prologue to the culminating Allegro vivace, which evokes an apocalyptic vision with stunning clarity and disarming spontaneity. The more familiar Pleasure Dome of Kubla Kahn exhibits a similar identification with Griffes’s idiom. But the Sonata is the greater achievement and ranks easily with the recordings of Garrick Ohlsson and Stephen Beus as the finest available.
The well-chosen Scriabin group flows seamlessly from the perfumed salon atmosphere of the 1903 A flat Waltz to the heady symbolism of Vers la flamme from 1914. ‘Fragilité’ showcases Tetzloff’s refined touch and the Seventh Sonata exemplifies his ability to elucidate formal structure within heavy harmonic overgrowth. But I found myself returning with relish to the Op 38 Waltz, where Tetzloff perfectly captures an overripe fin de siècle insouciance, poised just this side of trashiness.
After the colour-drenched extravaganzas of Griffes and Scriabin, Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue seems almost chaste. Kaleidoscopic colours are exchanged for fervent rapture in a performance that, while not as unmistakably French as, say, Bertrand Chamayou’s, carries the day with its sincerity and the sheer beauty of its musicality. As remarkably developed as Tetzloff’s gift is, it also suggests even greater things to come.