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Anne-Sophie Mutter @ Strathmore

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Mozart, Violin Sonatas, A.-S. Mutter, L. Orkis

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W. Lutosławski, Partita (inter alia), A.-S. Mutter, BBC Symphony Orchestra, W. Lutosławski
German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter always puts on a good show, and she has a big enough profile to anchor season openers, for the NSO this season and for Washington Performing Arts Society in 2008. So it was a pleasure indeed to hear her in a more intimate program on Tuesday night, if not necessarily a more intimate venue, presented by WPAS in the Music Center at Strathmore. She chose a first half that was curiously small for her, but musically flattering, followed by a blockbuster second half that reminded us that she is a powerhouse on the instrument.

Mutter began with a slender Mozart sonata (G Major, K. 379), not even one that particularly stood out on her recording. As on her disc it was the delicate touch of her partner at the piano, Lambert Orkis, principal keyboard player of the National Symphony Orchestra, that stood out, pressing the tempo ahead in the first movement while Mutter seemed to take her time. It is an odd little piece, with an opening Adagio, an arching cantilena in G major, that ends abruptly in D major and sets up an Allegro in G minor, given a more meaty, big-boned sound by both players. In the closing Theme and Variations, Orkis again showed a light handling of the piano-only first variation, with Mutter not quite suited to the filigree fine points of the violin part, giving too much pluck to the harp-like accompaniment of the slow fifth variation, for example. The results were better with Schubert's Fantaisie in C Major (D. 934), with Mutter shining on her E string in the Allegretto section. The variations, based on Schubert's song Sei mir gegrüßt (with that signature harmonic progression from vi to V/vi to V), were the highlight for both musicians, although some syncopated in the piano part -- in one variation that can sound almost like a tango when those accents are emphasized -- seemed tame.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, Anne-Sophie Mutter has a semi-great night (Washington Post, March 14)
Mutter's flawless ear for pitch and impressive memory make her a natural fit for more dissonant modern music, and as is often the case she made the biggest impression with just such a piece, Witold Lutosławski's rather fascinating Partita. The composer made an orchestral version of the piece in 1988 for Mutter, dedicating it to her, and she made a recording of that arrangement with the composer conducting. Rarely have microtonal bends sounded as sensual as rendered by Mutter, quite like human moans, and in this piece, where the violin part really is the dominant one, she finally took the spotlight and held it, her tone multichromatic, with moments shining, raspy, bird-like, muffled, syrupy, shrill. The final work, Camille Saint-Saëns' Sonata No. 1 in D minor, op. 75, left no doubt of Mutter's technical credentials. It is a high Romantic piece, sometimes thought to be the model for the Vinteuil sonata and its famous "petite phrase" in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, and Mutter gave the opening movement a restive agitation and rhapsodic dreaminess to the second. The piece is just as challenging for the pianist (if anything, Saint-Saëns just did not know when to stop sometimes), and Orkis did a good job of keeping up with his soloist, keeping the third movement light and fluffy and not falling behind in the hell-bent-for-leather finale. Loud ovations warranted three fine encores: Ravel’s Pièce en forme de Habanera, Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 2, and the chestnut Meditation from Massenet’s Thaïs.

If you can still see straight by late afternoon on St. Patrick's Day, the next WPAS concert is a recital by flutist James Galway (March 17, 4 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

1 comment:

Martin said...

The Frank Sonata also gets credited with inspiring M. Proust, although it's hard to imagine either piece being worthy of the prose that's lavished on the fictional counterpart.