Although Anne-Sophie Mutter only
directed half of this concert it was the part she didn’t conduct (or
play in) that impressed more - albeit only marginally. Like many violinists
who cross over into different territory Ms Mutter’s is not without its
problems. Her direction is limited, seemingly restricted to a single
opening up beat (excessively limited during the Tartini, one should
add) and it is also arguable that her technique and tone are not what
they once were.
Tartini’s Devil Trill Sonata
(in Zandonai’s Mussolinian orchestration – but here using a harpsichord
rather than piano) sounded as bloated as I have heard it in this over-indulgent
arrangement made in 1940. Evidently Ms Mutter sees value in it, especially
since she has made a recording of the piece, but it fails to highlight
what the Tartini is all about: an effervescence of clever technique,
often exposed as such. Yet, despite the shroud of orchestration that
often works against the soloist she was unable to brush aside some inconsistencies
in technique. A momentary loss of concentration in the opening movement
was surprising, as was the wiry tone which became less so as the performance
gained in confidence. Where violinists falter – in the cadenza – she
didn’t and her double-stopping was often thrilling. But this was pretty
soul-less playing – a performance few present who know the violin/piano
arrangement can really have been thrilled with.
A similar story beset her performance
of Vivaldi’s evergreen Four Seasons. Far too wintry – with not
enough of the spring and summer – it seemed to be a performance of limited
imagination coupled with icy touches oddly out of place in this work.
Impeccable technique, yes, but all the more depressing for its lack
of inventiveness and passion.
Quite what Andrew Manze, who guest
led the LPO on this occasion, made of all this would be interesting
to know. He himself directed two beautifully played accounts of Castello’s
Sonata for bowed instruments, Book II No.16 and Marini’s Balletto
secondo and Passacaglia from Op.22. He coaxed lyrically phrased
performances from the LPO strings – notably refraining from the over-use
of vibrato, which Ms Mutter, in her ever-Romantic style, saw fit to
use to excess – and in so doing made these pieces sound harmonically
inventive, even transparent. Gorgeous sonorities in the Passacaglia,
with impeccably controlled dynamic range, proved revelatory. It was
more than a pity that the music itself failed to live up to the quality
of preparation which went into these performances.