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Henri DUTILLEUX (b. 1916)
Sur le mê me accorda (2002) [8'59];
Bela BARTÓ K (1881-1945)

Violin Concerto No. 2, Sz112b (1937/8) [38'24];
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Violin Concero in Dc (1931) [21'11]
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin);
aOrchestre National de France/Kurt Masur; bBoston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa; aPhilharmonia Orchestra/Paul Sacher.
rec. aLive, Thé â tre des Champs Elysé es, Paris, Nov 2003, Symphony Hall, bBoston, Feb 1991, cWalthamstow Assembly Hall, London, Feb 1988. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 5376 [68'46]

 

This is a lovely coupling of two major twentieth-century concertos, to which is added the presumed reason for the disc, the world premiere recording of Dutilleux's Sur le mê me accord. It does seem strange, though, that DG should choose to repackage two already well-known concerto recordings to fill out the disc. I have already seen the disc advertised at full-price and at medium-price, so shop around. Even if you already own the Bartó k and the Stravinsky, it is worth it for the nine-minute Dutilleux, a real gem of a piece.

The Dutilleux actually had a long gestation, commissioned when Mutter was a mere slip of a girl of sixteen. The commission came as a result of Mutter's hearing the composer's Tout un monde lointain for cello and orchestra (see my review).

The violin work is, as the title suggests, based on one 'chord' - transformations of the six-notes heard at the start - Forteian set-structural analysts would have a ball! But such technical matters should not detract from the real emotional impact of this piece. Mutter rather more simply describes the work as an 'aria' (the piece's subtitle is 'Nocturne'). Indeed there is much lyrical writing that displays Mutter's expressive warmth. Her tone at the top can be wonderfully sweet or somewhat steely depending on context, and she can produce a magnificent deep-throated sound; as at around 2'30. There is a legato basis to the work that underpins even the more animated sections and completely justifies the 'aria' description.

Revisiting the two concertos is like meeting old friends again. In the case of the Bartó k, Mutter's tonal depth in the opening statements took me aback. She is placed forward in the recording balance. At various points I questioned whether she is too far forward. This placing, it might be argued, gives one the chance to gawp all the more at her agility. At around 7'15, for example, Mutter is amazing in her velocity. Ozawa and his band, however, need to be just that bit more on-the-ball with her syncopations. It is Mutter's handling of the more ruminative moments that linger in the memory, though ... not to mention the cadenza!

Another Nocturne comes in the shape of the second movement, but here it is a slightly uneasy one. The scherzoid interruption is magnificently light, the ending glorious. Mutter and Ozawa follow the twists and turns of the finale like a shadow, making clear in the process the correspondences with the Scherzando of the second movement. The close brings simply staggering playing from Mutter.

Finally, the Stravinsky. Last but certainly not least. A long time ago I did a brief overview of recordings of this concerto for The Gramophone, and it was this recording that emerged as the 'winner'. Rehearing this recording that is now not too far off twenty years old it still emerges as a superb statement. Sacher and Mutter seem to think as one, with the interaction of accents - so important in Stravinsky, of course - absolutely spot-on. She can swing, too (3'05).

The lyric and the very interior side of Stravinsky make up the middle two movements before the finale, that here positively sparkles. A pity there seems to be a touch too much reverb on the recording - around 1'30 this shows - which blunts the edge a little. It remains a beautifully playful way to close, though.

Interesting couplings, then. Of course the more new recordings we have of Mutter the better, so one cannot really encourage back-catalogue regurgitation. But do hear the Dutilleux ... and if you don't already own the two concertos, there really is no excuse not to buy this magnificent testament to a major violinist's dedication to the music of our time.

Colin Clarke



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