Veteran violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is not performing the usual Beethoven or Mozart repertoire here, but branching out to embrace new music commissioned for her. Along for the ride are the excellent New York Philharmonic under the baton of Michael Francis for the first Rihm work, and then under Alan Gilbert for the Currier piece, along with contrabassist Roman Patkoló. Lichtes Spiel (for violin and small orchestra) is indeed a "light game," with layered voices in the strings.
Anne-Sophie Mutter obviously had fun making this disc. In the quiet pieces (Massenet, Ysaÿe, Fauré) which serve as interludes, she plays with her usual exquisite taste. In the showpieces, though, she goes to town, sliding, scooping, exaggerating, & letting all the stops out. The gypsy inflection she uses in Ravel’s Tzigane & Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is delicious. Even a ridiculous orchestral arrangement of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata is more amusing than offensive. With James Levine & the Berlin Philharmonic providing uncommonly alert & powerful support, & Deutsche Grammophon’s realistic sound, this disc is a real treat for violin lovers.
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.
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.