Audio-CD / Vinyl / Download “Music moves us only when it tells a story”

A different kind of concert

A different kind of concert

Her career began on 11 December 1976. This was the day on which the then thirteen-year-old violinist from Wehr in the Black Forest auditioned for the great Herbert von Karajan, performing Bach’s famous Ciaconna. Normally it took only a few minutes for the maestro to interrupt the young artists who were auditioning for him, but in Anne-Sophie Mutter’s case he made an exception and listened to the piece from start to finish. She then played two movements from Mozart’s violin concertos. By now Karajan’s enthusiasm was unbounded: “I’ve just discovered a young violinist whom we all regard as a miracle.”

The rest is history. Karajan invited her to perform at the following year’s Salzburg Festival, when her emotionally moving and technically brilliant performance of Mozart’s G major Violin Concerto unleashed a torrent of frenzied acclaim rarely encountered with the Festival’s generally genteel audience. From then on the world’s leading orchestras fought over the highly gifted young woman from the Black Forest. Over the next four decades, she has travelled the world, taking with her the great violin concertos of Beethoven, Brahms and others, while also performing contemporary music and appearing as a recitalist in a number of selected chamber works.

It is now forty-seven years since Anne-Sophie Mutter auditioned for Karajan, and in June 2023 the violinist celebrated her sixtieth birthday. Many artists of her standing might have used such an occasion to record an album with a full orchestra featuring one of the famous Romantic violin concertos. Anne-Sophie Mutter has chosen a different approach. Together with her own ensemble, Mutter’s Virtuosi, she gave a concert in the venerable Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein, and the present release is based on a live recording of that event.

The Virtuosi are a string orchestra whose members are all extremely talented young musicians, most of them former and present bursary-holders of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. The violinist has long been keen to promote the careers of a new generation of artists, since she knows from her own experience how important it is for the most gifted musicians to receive support, which is why she founded her Friends of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation in 1997, before establishing her Anne- Sophie Mutter Foundation eleven years later. The latter organization makes instruments available for its members, creates contacts with soloists and masterclasses, organizes auditions with conductors and additionally commissions new works.

Mutter’s Virtuosi are thus the Foundation’s orchestra, a body of players that is both international in its membership and diverse in character. Its members are constantly changing. Since it was formed in 2011, it has successfully undertaken a number of national and international tours, while its chamber-like qualities make it especially well suited to Baroque and Viennese Classical works, so the programme of the Vienna concert included Vivaldi’s Concerto in F major for three violins and Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto. Anne-Sophie Mutter also appeared as a soloist in Bach’s A minor Concerto and also, by way of a surprise, in a strikingly virtuosic violin concerto by one of Mozart’s contemporaries, Joseph Bologne. “I find him incredibly interesting as a composer, he is so multifaceted,” says Anne-Sophie Mutter. “This is also true of the few biographies that exist about him.” Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was the son of a Caribbean slave and a French aristocrat. He grew up in aristocratic circles in Paris and trained as a violinist, conductor and composer, later applying for the job of running the Paris Opéra but having his application turned down on account of the colour of his skin. “Bologne’s violin concertos are innovative and extremely virtuosic. They place considerable demands on their soloist,” says Anne- Sophie Mutter. “His works and his life are two reasons why we should place this wonderful composer at the very heart of our concert programmes.”

In addition to these eighteenth-century concertos, Anne-Sophie Mutter’s programme was also designed to reflect another of her interests, which is to continue to expand the repertory for violin and strings. This aspect of her work finds expression in the inclusion in her programme of the Nonet by André Previn that she commissioned for her Virtuosi and which is scored for two string quartets centred on a double bass. “The surround sound that is achieved by treating the two string quartets as opposing groups, with the double bass as the solo instrument in the middle, is really fantastic,” the violinist observes with palpable enthusiasm. “It was the great double bass player Roman Patkoló who provided the incentive,” she explains. “André was so fascinated by his playing that he wrote this fantastic cadenza for him. To that extent Roman had a decisive impact on the genesis of this piece.”

It was André Previn who put Anne- Sophie Mutter in touch with the famous film composer John Williams. “I’d always been a great admirer of his music and got to know him about ten years ago in Tanglewood,” she recalls. It was on this occasion that she asked Williams if he would write a piece for her, but he was too busy. Only when she sent him some Lebkuchen for Christmas was she able to activate him. He dedicated Markings to her and she gave the work’s world premiere in Tanglewood in 2017. Williams also adapted some of his finest film tunes for Mutter and they recorded them together in Los Angeles and also performed them live with the Vienna Phil- harmonic. Williams’s Second Violin Concerto was written for, and dedicated to, Anne-Sophie Mutter in 2021, while the concert given by the Virtuosi also featured two encores in the form of new arrangements, specially adapted for the ensemble, of themes from Cinderella Liberty and Schindler’s List, two moving scores that are filled with warmth and melancholy.

For their third encore the internationally acclaimed violinist and her young orchestra delighted their Viennese audience with a performance of the virtuoso Presto movement from “Summer” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, a movement that brilliantly describes the elemental force of a storm. Here, too, Anne-Sophie Mutter proves herself to be one of the most versatile artists on today’s international classical circuit, moving with sovereign ease between the Age of Baroque, the world of film music and the contemporary musical scene and at the same time taking an active and committed interest in the next generation of young musicians, musicians who have more to offer than merely the perfection of sportsmen and women. One thing is certain in her mind: “Music moves us only when it tells a story. And I’m on the trail of the next generations of storytellers.”

Mario-Felix Vogt
Translation: texthouse

  • Anne-Sophie Mutter & Mutter‘s Virtuosi
    Anne-Sophie Mutter & Mutter‘s Virtuosi
    Bach, Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Previn, Vivaldi, Williams

    Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mutter‘s Virtuosi, Knut Johannessen

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