Christian Tetzlaff is much loved in our town, and his presence Friday night was much missed. But another way of looking at it is that the German violinist, in canceling his recital to be home for the birth of his sixth child, left an opening for something more significant.
Benjamin Beilman, who replaced him for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Perelman, is hardly unknown here, having schooled at the Curtis Institute and benefited from the sturdy career guidance of Astral Artists. But I'm not sure anyone locally knows the Ben Beilman we heard Friday night. Where the violinist was once merely polite, he has become beautifully refined. His sound has opened up. Ornaments to melodies have grown sophisticated. He has become an artist of firm ideas expressed with great polish.
There is also now a sense of liberation in his playing that I don't recall being there before, a chance-taking no doubt abetted, in a hopscotch program of Mozart and Janácek, by his pianist: Andrew Tyson, a 2010 Curtis graduate. The partnership is shaping up to be a standing one of consequence - they have played together at the Louvre, and this summer take a program to London's Wigmore Hall - and the musical justifications for it multiplied as Friday's program progressed.
Two Janácek works were an opportunity for range - disparate and finely differentiated dynamics and colors growing from the composer's abiding ear for nature. The Violin Sonata (1914-21) is sweet, intense music, which Beilman and Tyson captured. The level beyond, though, was in the way they caught the trembling leaves and rush of wind in the first movement. Piano blurred the line with harp in Tyson's imaginative second-movement sound world. The random twitching that ends the piece could have been the plaintive chant of a single cricket given the delicate unanimity the pair gave that moment.
It was that same unanimity that often made their Mozart as unusually potent as it was. The absolute alignment of pitch, phrasing, dynamics, and sensitivity to tone allowed deeper possibilities. Slowing the end of the first movement of Mozart's Violin Sonata in E Minor, K. 304, would not have been so touching without such closeness. The busy, florid piano writing in the last movement of the Violin Sonata in A Major, K. 526, was immaculately rendered - incredibly fast and light. So much so that both piano and violin parts, taken together, came across like ripples of laughter. On the surface, these were two baby-faced artists too young to know how seriously hard Mozart is. Never has it been more exhilarating to know better and delight in the perpetuation of the illusion.