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Facing Death, a Pianist Recorded Music of Unspeakable Emotions


“It was all the time this strange mixture of feeling, ‘OK, there may be death somewhere, and there may be despair, frustration, whatever, it’s there because we’re human beings’ — after which, next moment, he could be probably the most silly and joyful person,” she said. “That’s what all the time made his playing so incredibly touching, since you see the entire range of the human tragedy, and the lightness of life.”

Judging by his recordings, Vogt was a heartfelt soloist, excelling within the BachSchubertBrahms lineage, yet he was arguably at his finest as a chamber musician; even the tone he gleaned from a piano — compassionate, never domineering — seems to ask collaboration. The Schubert album is the newest in a peerless series of releases with the Tetzlaffs that bears witness to a relationship not only between three artists of stature, but amongst intimates with a standard, fearless commitment to expression.

“It’s something that’s a bit hard to grasp totally from the surface; there was a really strong symbiosis,” Reijo Kiilunen, the founder and managing director of Ondine, said of the trio’s recording sessions, through which they appeared to talk “a special language” with each other. “You just hear it of their playing.”

Before the Schubert, Vogt and the Tetzlaffs had essayed the three Brahms trios, in addition to two by Dvorak; with Christian alone, there have been accounts of sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. There’s never the sensation, in any of those interpretations, that the instrumentalists are competing for the limelight or attempting to impress anyone, least of all of the listener; they’re sharing the music with each other.

One in all those recordings has grow to be especially poignant because it was made in 2015: a searing reading of Brahms’s Violin Sonata in G, which was also the last piece that Vogt and Christian played together, as nurses gathered to listen to them perform per week or so before the pianist’s death.

There’s one passage, in the primary movement, that movingly illustrates their partnership. It seems easy enough — the violin strums, like a guitar, because the piano adopts the searching major theme — and most duos play it simply, as a basic query of foreground and background. Yet Vogt’s tone is soft, withdrawn, as if he doesn’t want the eye to fall entirely on himself, but would reasonably draw the ear to the support that Christian is offering, the essential accompaniment to his mournful song. There isn’t any ego.

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