Anne-Sophie Mutter: Selected 20th Century Violin Works Back
to the Future
DG 463 790-2, 4 discs
(69'51, 77'57, 56'08 & 62'17), mid price.
As part of Anne-Sophie Mutter's Back to the Future series of concerts,
now on at the Barbican (reviewed on
Seen & Heard
), DG have re-released her recordings of Twentieth century violin
works. Coupling works by Sibelius, Penderecki, Bartok, Stravinsky, Norbert,
Rihm, Berg and Lutoslowski they are mid-priced and if you don't already
have them they are a worthwhile investment.
Probably the most interesting new work is Penderecki's Metamorphoses.
This is similar in style, and breadth, to the violin concerto that Penderecki
wrote for Isaac Stern (and so wonderfully recorded by Salvatore Accardo -
nla). There is a profound sense of drama in both works, with the dark sombreness
of the earlier work here replaced with something more akin to elegiac
lamentation. The writing makes great demands on the soloist, with the sonorities
almost deliberately feminine as if to play up to Mutter's feline and rhapsodical
tone palate. With its virility and inherent expressiveness it is one the
finest violin works to have been written in the last decade, and Mutter's
performance is definitive.
Mutter has been very proactive in seeking out new repertoire, and Lutoslowski
had been willing to provide new works for her. She premiered Chain 2 in
1986, a work of complex mood which ranges from hysteria (in the frenetic
coda) to intense lyricism in the Ad libitum slow movement. It is partly a
work in the grand concerto tradition with its romantic use of orchestral
and soloist discourse, but its idiom places it firmly as a late twentieth
century work with its frequent torrents of orchestral assault, often in itself
a means to destroy the dominance of the soloist. Like the later
Partita, Chain 2 is a work which mixes a hedonistic
blend of cantabile lyricism with quite astonishing energy-riddled outer
movements. Again, Mutter's technique is assured and she encounters obstacle
upon obstacle with considerable skill.
Mutter's recordings of the Sibelius, Stravinsky and Berg concertos are not
without their moments of controversy. The Sibelius is nowhere near icy enough,
the tone too sweet for this music, and the last movement is somewhat underplayed.
The Stravinsky is more successful, a fine performance that has rhythm and
panache in equal measure. The Berg is a fabulous performance of a concerto
that is difficult to bring off successfully. There is an almost religious
allusiveness to Mutter's playing that brings the tragedy of this great work
out most satisfyingly. It is grippingly turbulent, compellingly tragic and
None of these performances is routine in any way, although not all are first
recommendations. Buy this set for the works Mutter premiered, but for the
Sibelius, Bartok and Stravinsky choose Perlman.