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Mutter's Mozart Sonatas

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Mozart, Violin Sonatas, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lambert Orkis (released on September 19, 2006)
Mutter Mozart Project:

Jens F. Laurson, Violin Concerti (December 31, 2005)
Anne-Sophie Mutter certainly had no compelling reason like financial need behind her ambitious Mozart Project, the recording of all the major Mozart works for violin that she undertook for the past year or so. She is wealthy beyond the dreams of most classical musicians, and demand for her playing keeps her just as busy as she could ever want to be. The Mozart centenary, now mercifully almost at an end, offered a convenient excuse. When she answered the Proust Questionnaire, Mutter stated that her historical heroes and heroines were Mozart, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, in that order. This is a musician we can expect to approach every phrase Mozart wrote for the violin with clean hands and clean spirit, like the sacred scriptures of her personal shrine.

Mozart Project:
available at Amazon
Violin Concerti, Sinfonia Concertante (2005)

available at Amazon
Piano Trios, with André Previn, Daniel Müller-Schott (2006)

Forthcoming on DVD (February 13, 2007):

available at Amazon
Violin Sonatas

available at Amazon
Piano Trios

available at Amazon
Violin Concerti
Mutter and her performing partner, pianist Lambert Orkis, have been touring three programs of selections from this album around Europe and lately North America, concluding with a final recital here in Washington last week, an event that unfortunately I had to miss. I have enjoyed listening to this set of four CDs, containing 16 of the Mozart violin sonatas, what Mutter considers "the great violin sonatas." My advice would probably be to wait for the release of the DVD this February, where you will have the same tracks with video, at a reduced price (via Amazon, $46 for the CD set and $30 for the DVDs). If you wait for the whole box set of DVDs, it may be offered at an even further reduced price, with a pretty case. (The packaging of the CDs is aesthetically very pleasing to the eye.) It seems to me that the way to experience Mutter is with eyes and ears together.

Orkis and Mutter play well together, with a clear sense of having collaborated for many years. Orkis has a refined touch for Mozart, with at the same time the technical ability for the most difficult passages, especially in the virtuosic K. 526 (A major, CD 4), and to stand well on his own as in the second movement of K. 305 (A major, CD 2). Mutter's playing is impeccable, but whether the interpretation seems right varies from movement to movement. Mutter calls K. 304 (E minor, CD 4) her favorite sonata, and her reading of it is the most intense on the four discs. The lovely second movement (Tempo di Menuetto) has a suffocated, self-strangling main theme, and Mutter makes her violin almost raspy. Press handlers and Mutter herself have singled out K. 304 as the only Mozart sonata in a minor key, and while that may indeed be significant, there are single movements in minor keys, too. For example, the minor-mode theme and variations in K. 377 (F major, CD 4), is particularly nice, especially the concluding Siciliana. Here Mutter gives us some of her least affected playing, with one folk-like wail she adds in the final minute.

There are a few minor problems, as in the first movement of K. 296 (C major, CD 3), in which the tempo never settles, with Orkis seeming to jump ahead at times. Mutter has such strength in her sound that when she tries to make her tone narrow or simple, as in the Puckish first movement of K. 378 (B-flat major, CD 2), it loses too much interest. (An exception is the sweet second-movement theme and variations of K. 379 -- G major, CD 1 -- but it is dominated by the piano.) Combined with the occasional idiosyncrasies, like the tendency of Mutter's tone to turn a little toward roughness or darkness, that means that this set of Mozart sonatas is unlikely to become a favorite, at least for me. That does not mean that there is not much to admire, but this is not a crucial purchase. For Mutter fans, wait for the DVD.

Deutsche Grammophon B0007102-02


jfl said...

How do these compare to, say, the Uchida/Steinberg recording or the complete Barenboim/Perlman or, for that matter, any of the other sets out there?? How does it compare to the historically informed sets of Podger Manze's one-off recording?


Charles T. Downey said...

Yes, here is what Jens had to say about the other Mozart sonata recordings, in his review of the Mutter concerti (linked to in the review above):

"Even if much improves, how this odd demi-period style - neither fish nor fowl - is supposed to compete against either Manze-Egarr (HMU) or Podger-Cooper (Channel Classics – now on their second disc of what is going to be a complete set) I do not know. Among non-period style recordings it will compete – complete as it will be – against Barenboim/Perlman, which is a tall order, too. If you are looking just for some of those sonatas, of course, I can only repeat the highest of praise for the Steinberg/Uchida recording on Philips, which I have heaped on that recording - including in the Best Recordings of 2005 overview."

jfl said...

unfortunately, my comments on this set are not valuable, because I listened to a pre-view DVD that turned out to be very different from the finished set (which I have on my desk but still couldn't get myself to listen to). While the DVD shows Orkis on a Mozartfluegel, he does play a regular concert grand on the CD...

Charles T. Downey said...

Hmm, the packaging of the DVD suggests that it will be the same performance, with piano, as the CD.

As for the Manze and Podger recordings, I hope you will give us your thoughts about them. I own neither.

jfl said...

The DVD *will* be the same performance as the CD -- but the promotional preview DVD that included excerpts from all three (trios, concertos, sonatas) CDs/DVDs only showed Orkis on the Mozartfluegel with ASM in practice... which had misled me. ASM put me straight in my interview with her. (I should have listened to the actual CD before talking to her, I suppose. :) )

Anonymous said...

I bought the complete CDs set some months ago and enjoyed listening. I am always a fan of Mutter since her early DGG recordings.

Rushed out to buy the DVD when it was available in store. To my huge disappointment, this is by far the worst DVD I have ever watch for a live concert! It is not the music, nor the violinist, nor pianist, nor the concert hall, nor the acoustic.

It is the terible video editing!! It shifts from one camera to another camera, from one angle to another angle, in almost less than 5 seconds. How would one be able to catch up. There are just too many close up with the two piano hands jumping up and down filling up the whole screen, or half of Mutter's head, or 3/4 of the violin strings, half of the violin, or Mutter's fingers dancing up and down the fingerboard!!! All these are jusst too shaky!! And very often, the video is out of focus. The cameras couldn't catch up and how could ours!

I guess this two DVD set made a good bargain when playing off only as audio like CDs. It is just too painful to watch. I am almost 15 minutes on it now and got dizziness long before then.

I would suggest DGG to reissue it with better video editing. This DGG version is totally absolutely unacceptable. At least, a still camera from front will serve the purpose as to let people watching the artists clearly. The frequent shifting of angles is totally unncessary.

I would prefer the plain stationary angle as ANGLE 1 leaving the other angle which contains this original editing to those who want dizzy feeling without drinking any wine or beer.