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…
This must surely be among the boldest, sweetest, most sensual and most provocatively phrased accounts of Brahms’s Violin Concerto ever recorded. And I can tell you with some confidence, after having recently surveyed a whole host of ‘historic’ violinists playing the same work, that not one of them waives the rules with as much nerve as Anne-Sophie Mutter does here.
Long admired for her powerful playing and respected as a champion of new music, Anne-Sophie Mutter is the recipient of numerous pieces composed especially for her by the leading contemporary masters. Henri Dutilleux wrote his nocturne for violin and orchestra, Sur le même accord, for Mutter, and this live, world-premiere recording of the debut performance demonstrates why composers trust her with their music.