Krzysztof-Penderecki-Musikakademie Krakau 2022 Verleihung der Ehrendoktorwürde



Laudatio durch den Rektor der Krzysztof-Penderecki-Musikakademie Krakau, Prof. Dr. hab. Wojciech Widłak am 30. März 2022

It is with great joy that I deliver this laudation in honour of Anne-Sophie Mutter – an extraordinary Artist whom we greatly admire, a Maestra of the violin, whose artistry of performance is acclaimed the whole world over. I do this honour on behalf of the Senate and all members of the Krzysztof Penderecki Academy of Music in Kraków.

This is a momentous occasion for our Institution: Maestra Anne-Sophie Mutter has been awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa, the highest distinction of our alma mater. This title was conferred on her by the Academy Senate following a motion submitted by the faculty and supported by the Honorary Degrees Committee, whose members include, among others, the eminent Polish violinist, professor and honorary doctor of the Academy, Kaja Danczowska. The Committee came to its decision in 2021, the year when our Institution was renamed the Krzysztof Penderecki Academy of Music in honour of its famous alumnus, who was a professor, honorary doctor of the Academy and for 15 years also its rector, and who enjoyed a long-standing artistic collaboration with Anne-Sophie Mutter and an equally long-standing friendship.

It is difficult to include in such a short laudation everything that one would wish to express when paying tribute to an Artist of such stature, who has been called a musical phenomenon of the modern art of violin playing. Certainly, first of all we ought to emphasise the enormity of her achievements and contributions to music; the stunning beginnings of her career at the tender age of 13, her performances on the world’s most important stages under the baton of leading conductors (starting with the legendary Herbert von Karajan) and its most prominent orchestras; her unforgettable renditions of violin masterpieces from the Baroque to the present day; her countless, globally-renowned recordings released on the most important labels. Anne-Sophie Mutter’s outstanding role in moulding the musical landscape of our times, including contemporary works for violin, is evident in the plethora of awards, honours and distinctions she has garnered over her career, including: four Grammys, nine Echo Classic Awards, the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (German Record Critics’ Award), the Record Academy Prize, the Grand Prix du Disque, the International Phono Award, the Léonie Sonning Muskpris, the Polar Music Prize, the Praemium Imperiale, the Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis, the Brahms Preis, the Erich Fromm-Preis, the Gustav Adolf Prize, the European St Ulrich Award, the Cristobal Gabarron Award, and the Leipziger Mendelssohn-Preis. In addition, the Artist has been awarded honorary memberships of the Royal Academy of Music in London, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Keble College (Oxford University) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary doctorate of the University of Trondheim, as well as national distinctions awarded by France, Spain, Romania and Poland…

Today’s ceremony and the decision made by the Senate of the Academy to award Anne-Sophie Mutter this degree is also justified on other grounds, i.e. a specific combination of circumstances, the fates of certain individuals and the specifics of time and place.

The artist’s ties with Poland and its musical culture. Anne-Sophie Mutter first met Witold Lutosławski in the Swiss home of Paul Sacher (nota bene, also an honorary doctor of our Academy) at the beginning of the 1980s. She later said in an interview: “Lutosławski’s music (...) opened a new chapter in my life. It opened up before me a world of a new musical idiom – a world so extraordinarily noble that no words can describe the great significance it had for me as an artist and as a person”. Her collaboration with Lutosławski resulted in wonderful works that the composer wrote for the Artist and which the two performed together: Chain II for violin and orchestra (1984-85) and a version of Partita for violin and orchestra (1988). “Performing them brings me great joy” – Anne-Sophie Mutter stated years later. It was more than simply a joint effort of composer and violinist – it was the beginning of an artistic friendship. This is evidenced, among other things, by the special musical gift which Lutosławski gave to the Violinist, namely Lullaby for Anne-Sophie for violin and piano (1989) – with its accent of personal memory and devotion, encapsulated in a musical miniature. Whenever she is in Warsaw, the Artist always visits the Lutosławskis’ grave, remaining – as she always emphasises – steadfast in her memory of him to this very day.

Anne-Sophie Mutter became acquainted with Krzysztof Penderecki in 1984 in Stuttgart, at a concert of Polish Requiem conducted by the composer himself. Years later she recalled: “It was the beginning of a new era for me. I was utterly astounded by the power and depth of the musical expression of this work. He pushed the sound of the instruments and human voices to their limits. I had never heard anything like it. At that moment I fell deeply in love with his music”. This and further encounters between the two artists, as well as joint performances, bore fruit in works that Penderecki dedicated especially to Anne-Sophie Mutter: Sonata No. 2 for solo violin (1999), Duo Concertante for violin and double bass (2010), La Follia for solo violin (2013), and especially Violin Concerto No. 2 “Metamorphosen” (1992-95), which the Artist described as a work “brilliant from beginning to end. (...) This is music that moves, that makes you shudder, and that cannot be forgotten.”

Here once again an acquaintanceship and collaboration turned into many years of friendship on an artistic level. The aforementioned La Follia was a birthday gift from Krzysztof Penderecki to Anne-Sophie Mutter, which she repaid with her dazzling virtuosity in performances of this extremely difficult work. Zachary Woolfe from The New York Times wrote on one of them: “She somehow makes you aware, through passages of misty tone and deliberate accretions of intensity, of how many interpretive options there are beyond the one she has chosen, how many roads through a given work have gone untraveled”.

These are some of the clearest examples of Maestra Anne-Sophie Mutter’s intimate relationship with Poland and her truly priceless efforts in promoting Polish music throughout the world. We also ought to mention her concerts and recordings with Polish orchestras (including the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfonia Varsovia) under the baton of Polish conductors (not only Witold Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki, but also Jan Krenz, Antoni Wit, and members of the faculty of our Academy of Music – Professors Łukasz Borowicz and Maciej Tworek), appearances at the Warsaw Philharmonic, the ICE Congress Centre in Kraków, the concert hall of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the National Forum of Music in Wrocław, the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Lusławice, and her collaboration with the Ludwig van Beethoven Association. Anne-Sophie Mutter has also been awarded one of Poland’s most prestigious accolades – the Gloria Artis gold medal (2018) – and a medal from the Witold Lutosławski Society (2013).

As the Artist herself emphasised in one of her interviews: “Polish music has always been important to me – the works of Penderecki, Lutosławski, Szymanowski.” In another interview she added: “To feel close to Poland, I didn’t have to return there. But being present in the country is something different entirely. Every time I am here, I feel the momentousness of the occasion. (...) My life is filled with Polish music”.

As a performer of, and an inspiration for, music written by Poland’s most eminent composers, she also had a significant influence on their work. As Witold Lutosławski told Elżbieta Markowska: “Before I heard Anne-Sophie Mutter play Chain II in the third rehearsal, I could never have imagined that I would ever hear my music performed in this fashion. It instantly stimulates the imagination and gives you flashes of inspiration. (...) The very idea of music being played by such performers is truly stirring. After concerts with such soloists (...) I experience periods in which my musical vision is galvanized”. On hearing Anne-Sophie Mutter perform his Partita Lutosławski was equally rapturous: “[Her] playing left one of the strongest impressions on me. I was stunned. Every phrase was filled with deep meaning. I could recognise all the notes I had written. Nevertheless, I could not have imagined that I would be able to hear such a perfect rendition of my music in my lifetime”. As a consequence, the composer arranged his Partita for violin and orchestra and dedicated this version of the piece to Anne-Sophie Mutter. The works by Lutosławski and Penderecki mentioned above were not the only ones dedicated to this outstanding violinist. Other composers who penned pieces for her include Unsuk Chin, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, André Previn, Wolfgang Rihm, and John Williams.

Many years later, Krzysztof Penderecki recalled his joint performance with Anne-Sophie Mutter at the Lucerne Festival in 1988 and his impression of her playing (Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto): “There before me was little more than a child with a violin, and yet she played better than an adult, because there was a freshness and an unusual quality that is hard to describe”.

The phenomenon that is Anne-Sophie Mutter lies in her exceptional talent and artistry as a performer. She treats this talent as a gift and a duty. She is constantly striving for perfection with a sense of mission towards those for whom her art is important and vital, because it expresses and reflects our passions, love and longing. Through the sound of her violin, conveying the full range of its colours and emotions, Anne-Sophie Mutter communicates to her audience important and universal things and values.

The power of her musical message, her utter commitment to her art and her unique, almost fervent dedication to quality were all features reinforced by her long-term collaboration – at the beginning of her career – with Herbert von Karajan. Years later she recalls: “With Karajan, everyone could feel the power of his vision. Everyone who played with him entered a different level of understanding towards music. Working with him was (...) a revelation”. The word “revelation” also fits Anne-Sophie Mutter well herself and is often heard in the utterances of those who have become acquainted with her masterful virtuosity as well as the depth and uncompromising nature of her interpretations of the masterpieces of violin music. Let us recall here the words of Ludwig van Beethoven (to Bettina von Arnim, from 1810): “Music should strike fire from the heart of man. It is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Anne-Sophie Mutter performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 61 in a truly inspired fashion, expressing, as she does, an unparalleled emotional intensity and always remembering about Karajan’s “orchestra forming a silk carpet for the solo violin playing pianissimo”.

A desire to go beyond limits, including one’s own limits, vision, hard work, and a striving for perfection – these are features shared by both Anne-Sophie Mutter and Herbert von Karajan, so crucial to what is truly precious in art. However, two other essential attributes of her work are Love and Passion. Without them, it would probably be impossible to comprehend the titanic achievements and remarkable life of Anne-Sophie Mutter, a life led constantly in the spotlight and forever on the move. She always thinks of others. She wants to serve the world through her talent. She says: “My ideal of a musician includes another aspect, no less important: the good fortune of being able to help – to find meaning in life in one’s actions with and for the benefit of others”. For years now, she has led her own ensemble – Mutter’s Virtuosi – composed of talented young people; she has founded the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation and the Association of Friends of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation e.V., and has done charity work... Endowed with a unique talent, she has never ceased sharing it with others, finding fulfilment in these acts of giving. It is this fervour, joy, positive energy and fulfilment that resound in her performances of J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor BWV 1043 with the young members of Mutter’s Virtuosi!

Anne-Sophie Mutter’s unbounded energy lends extraordinary power and depth to the sounds she extracts with her Stradivarius when performing works by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven and contemporary composers alike. As one reviewer said: “There is no other violinist like her – she can achieve literally anything on the violin. She can move from sweet and vibrato-dense sound to notes played with ascetic simplicity non vibrato; from tones suffused with melancholy to displays of unbelievable technical wizardry – extremely fast double stops in the cadenza of the third movement of the concerto. She plays with music, but she does so with love”. This feeling is reciprocated by audiences on all continents, who have flocked to see Anne-Sophie Mutter’s concerts in the world’s most important concert halls.

Music is a life-long adventure that never gets boring, said Anne-Sophie Mutter in an interview. She is convinced that for this reason a musician will never waste his or her life but they will always wander and explore new things. But we know that music is also the “speech of sounds” (N. Harnoncourt) – and Anne-Sophie Mutter speaks powerfully with the sound of her violin to the world, to people, to anyone who hears her play. She does this through her inimitable virtuosity, in which she conveys an extraordinary passion for connecting people and making the world a better place. She is a fully engaged and authentic artist, devoted to music with all her heart. Because, as she says, “music is capable of changing the world. (...) Therefore, artists are able to change the world, to change our lives. Music as a universal language, as something that stands above all divisions, has great power”.

It is in honour of this gift of the most exquisite music, this musical artistry and its exceptional impact, and the very speech of her violin, which stirs the deepest emotions and raises the spirits of her listeners, that today we wish to pay tribute to Anne-Sophie Mutter by bestowing upon her the highest distinction of the Krzysztof Penderecki Academy of Music in Kraków – Doctor honoris causa. This degree shall be conferred by the Senate and all members of the Academy, whose motto is the pursuit of excellence per Academiam ad astra. Let this degree be a symbol of the unique and admirable ties that bind Anne-Sophie Mutter, the First Lady of the violin, with our Institution, thanks to her special relationship with Poland, Polish composers, artists, and, in particular, the Patron of our Academy.

Prof. Dr. hab. Wojciech Widłak

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