Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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New classical tracks: Growing up with Mozart

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Anne-Sophie Mutter "Mutter Mozart" - The Violin Concertos (album cover)
Anne-Sophie Mutter: "Mutter Mozart" - The violin concertos/Sinfonia concertante - Mutter/London Philharmonic Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon B0005078-02)

St. Paul, Minn. — After almost 30 years as one of the top-ranking violin virtuosos of our time, you might think Anne-Sophie Mutter has done it all. This new recording marks the beginning of a project she's dreamed about since she was 6 years old. That's when she first fell in love with Mozart.

That love grew stronger when she gave her debut at 9 with a German orchestra, and it intensified when she was 13, playing the G major concerto under the baton of her mentor, Herbert von Karajan.

"Since then," Mutter explains, "Mozart has always been present on a daily basis in my life."

She's never stopped thinking about him, and she's always trying out new ways to get closer to Mozart. He's the composer with whom she's grown up, the one who's been there at every crossroads of her career.

Mutter has recorded several works by Mozart already. But, she stresses, her perceptions of Mozart have changed a lot over the years, because she's matured and sees new things in Mozart's music every time she plays it. That's why she's launched "The Mozart Project," to mark the composer's 250th birth anniversary in 2006.

This new recording also gives us a taste of Anne-Sophie Mutter the conductor. She hasn't studied conducting technique, but she says she's a born leader, and she knows exactly what she wants from the score. Plus, she knows how to convince the orchestra of her viewpoint.

Mutter has already led the Vienna Philharmonic in Mozart's violin concertos in concert, but her choice of the London Philharmonic Orchestra was crucial for this recording.

Some orchestras sound velvety, she explains, "But the LPO are more like a Porsche—vibrant and youthful, and they can pull off anything. Their Mozart is fast," Mutter says, not in terms of tempo, but in how they react.

That's important because according to Mutter, Mozart is more than just playing him "beautifully." It's more about the spaces between the notes. With Mozart every note is precious, and has to be examined to discover its meaning. And, his orchestration is more of a backdrop, so the performer is much more exposed.

Maybe that's why Mozart's G major violin concerto is one of Mutter's favorites. In the first movement of this concerto, the orchestra is the canvas and the violinist is the painter. They provide the soft, muted colors, while the violinist brushes on the brilliant strokes of color with her bow.

The slow movement, with its soft orchestration and gorgeous, tender melody, reminds me of Renoir's painting, "Dance at Bougival." In that art work, the gentleman is holding his partner tightly, but delicately, as they sashay to the music. Both are smiling and truly enjoying the moment.

Anne-Sophie Mutter's interpretation is heartfelt, as if she, too has danced at that romantic café in Bougival, and you can hear she's reveling in the moment as well.

Anne-Sophie Mutter has a talented "dancing" partner in the Sinfonia Concertante. It's Russian violist Yuri Bashmet. In 1992, Bashmet began working with the Moscow Soloists, which he directs himself. He's also inspired many composers to write for him, including Alfred Schnittke.

Anne-Sophie Mutter chose Bashmet because, as far as she's concerned, he is the greatest viola player in the world. He's a very emotional performer who sometimes adds things to the score that Mutter says she would never think of herself.

In the slow movement, these two musicians create a passionate operatic duet. Sure, they're following the score, but something tells me both performers are adding their own ideas as those tender solo lines unfurl. As the soloists pour out their souls, the orchestra serenades the melody with a gentle pizzicato accompaniment.

Over the next few months, you'll no doubt come across numerous recordings celebrating Mozart's 250th birth anniversary. In fact, Anne-Sophie Mutter is putting out two more new CDs containing all of Mozart's major compositions for violin.

One is a collection of Mozart sonatas with long-time chamber partner, pianist Lambert Orkis. The other will be a recording of piano trios featuring her husband, Sir Andre Previn and Daniel Muller-Schott. Look for those two releases next year.

In the meantime, get geared up for the Mozart birthday party with this new recording, and hear how Anne-Sophie Mutter has grown up with Mozart.