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
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
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
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.
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.