Even though Anne-Sophie Mutter recorded most of the great violin concertos early in her career, working closely with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, she hadn't recorded the Violin Concerto in A minor of Antonín Dvorák. This 2013 recording with Manfred Honeck and the Berlin Philharmonic fills that gap in her legacy, and this is an exceptionally bright and passionate performance, well worth the wait.
Veteran violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is not performing the usual Beethoven or Mozart repertoire here, but branching out to embrace new music commissioned for her. Along for the ride are the excellent New York Philharmonic under the baton of Michael Francis for the first Rihm work, and then under Alan Gilbert for the Currier piece, along with contrabassist Roman Patkoló. Lichtes Spiel (for violin and small orchestra) is indeed a "light game," with layered voices in the strings.
Anne-Sophie Mutter obviously had fun making this disc. In the quiet pieces (Massenet, Ysaÿe, Fauré) which serve as interludes, she plays with her usual exquisite taste. In the showpieces, though, she goes to town, sliding, scooping, exaggerating, & letting all the stops out. The gypsy inflection she uses in Ravel’s Tzigane & Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is delicious. Even a ridiculous orchestral arrangement of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata is more amusing than offensive. With James Levine & the Berlin Philharmonic providing uncommonly alert & powerful support, & Deutsche Grammophon’s realistic sound, this disc is a real treat for violin lovers.
This SACD transfer of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s Beethoven violin sonatas, taken from a series of live recordings from 1998, does not transcend the questionable interpretations. In each of these famous sonatas, Mutter takes excessive liberties with respect to dynamics and phrasing, and while some listeners may appreciate the thought and care she puts into these readings, it sounds as if she is trying a bit too hard to be “musical”. For example, just before the exposition repeat of the “Spring” sonata, several instances of disproportionate agogic pauses, inconsistent use of vibrato, random adherences to sforzando markings, and a sporadic disregard for (or recasting of) dynamics combine to produce an overly fussy performance that lacks momentum and a sense of direction.
In May of 2015, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter gave a truly unique concert: rather than standing on stage in one of the world’s renowned well-tempered grand concert halls, she spent two evenings playing in a tiny graffiti-scrawled nightclub in Berlin. Recorded in front of a standing-room only audience, this new release includes popular works by Bach, Copland, Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and many more. Mutter is joined by Mahan Esfahani, Lambert Orkis and the Mutter Virtuosi.
The idea is for the music to be the most important thing in a performance, not the performer, not the performer's dress, not the performer's hair, not the performer's smile, not the performer's figure. If all that mattered in a performance of classical music was how sexy the violinist looked, Lara St. John would be the greatest performer of classical music who ever lived and Gidon Kremer would be laughed off stage. But in classical music, it is the music that matters most, not how well the violinist fills a designer gown…
From 1976, when Herbert von Karajan – already a legend – met the prodigiously gifted 13-year-old Anne-Sophie Mutter until his death 13 years later, she was the only violinist to appear with him in concert and on disc. This 5-CD set contains all the concertos they recorded together for Deutsche Grammophon. It includes the concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch and Brahms; but now, for the first time, there is also the Tchaikovsky Concerto, as well as the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Mark Zeltser and Yo-Yo Ma, and the Brahms Double Concerto with Antonio Meneses.