Mutter's Beethoven Concerto was recorded live at the final subscription concerts of Karl Masur's long tenure as the New York Philharmonic's music director, and the beautifully played orchestral part is a tribute to his leadership. Mutter plays with a silken tone and astonishing technical command of her instrument–absolute ease in the stratospheric tessitura of the solo part, and an amazing array of microdynamic adjustments that display the infinite variety of pianissimos at her command.
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.
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…
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.