Review: Tetzloff’s piano style gentlemanly, skilled

Reed Tetzloff is a very good pianist. A sophomore at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, Te

Reed Tetzloff is a very good pianist. A sophomore at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, Tetzloff made his debut Saturday afternoon at the Niskayuna Public Library to open the 15th season of the Young Musicians Forum. His appearance was something of a surprise for the audience, who had expected clarinetist Vasko Dukovski and pianist Vladimir Valjarevic.

According to series organizers, Dukovski, who is Macedonian, had trouble getting his visa. Luckily, Tetzloff, who was scheduled to appear in November on the series, had just played a recital days ago. With great sang froid, which he demonstrated throughout his program on Saturday, he agreed to come in Dukovski’s stead.

Besides the poise, he showed a technique untroubled by any of the works’ demands, a good sense of a phrase’s arch, solid musicianship and a nice manner with the crowd.

Tetzloff began with Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat Major, No. 52. Tempos were steady and well paced, he didn’t use too much pedal, and he kept the technique light and well pulsed.

Brahms’ Eight Pieces, Op. 76 are much darker with romantic overtones in sometimes melancholic, nostalgic or introspective settings. Although Tetzloff never dropped a note or blurred too many passages with the pedal and did well stretching the phrases, he was perhaps too gentlemanly in his approach. Each of the eight should have had their own sensibility. Most of them sounded the same in Tetzloff’s hands.

To his credit, when he had to produce a bigger sound and there were more technical difficulties, he seemed to catch some fire. This was true for Capriccio in C-sharp minor, which had a bit more of a sharper edge. And except in the Intermezzo in A-flat Major, which is like a lullaby, Tetzloff could have let loose more, even wear his heart on his sleeve. For Brahms, this would work.

Perhaps because Liszt’s “Annees de Pelerinage, Year One” and his Ballade No. 2 in B minor asked for thunder as well as poetry, Tetzloff allowed himself to get more involved. The technical demands were easily under his fingers, so he indulged a bit with the intensity (a good thing) and showed that he could make contrasts between the highs and the lows of a piece’s emotional requirements. Still, he could have rumbled a bit more with clarity in the Ballade and tugged more at his and the audience’s heartstrings in both works.

For his obviously good effort, Tetzloff got a standing ovation and offered as an encore, a Sarabande from J. S. Bach’s Partita in G Major. He used only a little pedal, set a brisk tempo and still conveyed the movement’s sweetness.

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