Wolfgang RIHM (b.1952)
Lichtes Spiel - ein Sommerstück, for violin and small orchestra (2009) [17:08]
Dyade, for violin and double bass (2010-11) [12:35]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Duo Concertante, for violin and double bass (2010) [5:03]
Sebastian CURRIER (b.1959)
*Time Machines, for violin and orchestra (2007) [29:05]
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
Roman Patkoló (double bass)
New York Philharmonic/Michael Francis; *Alan Gilbert
rec. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, 18 November 2010; *2 June 2011; Bavaria Musikstudios, April 2011 (Dyade and Duo). DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9359 [63:51]
This is the kind of CD that virtually sells itself: some of the biggest names in the business - violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, the New York Philharmonic - two live recordings of substantial recent world premieres, and Deutsche Grammophon's massive marketing machinery behind the whole thing.
There is always a danger with performers - or should that be artists? - as high-profile as Mutter, supported by DG's resources, that the music ends up playing second fiddle. So it is that on the CD cover here Mutter's full name is displayed in large red letters, while Wolfgang Rihm and Sebastian Currier are relegated to surnames in smaller grey lettering, and Krzysztof Penderecki ... where is Penderecki? Where is the other soloist, Roman Patkoló, for that matter?
Turn the case over to find them, yet dwarfed again by Mutter, whose profile fills the back inlay. Excluding the 11 photos of her on the front, there are 11 inside the booklet, looking typically elegant and fragrant, plus a full-page advert of DG's super-duper 40-disc limited-edition boxset with 300-page hardback book (containing another 150 photos) dedicated to her 35 years in the spotlight - hence the title, "ASM35: The Complete Musician" - during which time her recordings, the blurb informs, have already sold more than 5 million units. Message understood, DG.
Fortunately, however, Mutter rarely disappoints, and certainly will not in these searing performances. She has an adventurous spirit besides, and has had numerous works written for her: this CD brings together four recent ones by three living composers who themselves rarely disappoint.
The two orchestral focal points are separated - some may feel incongruously - by two virtuosic pieces for violin and double bass: the short, jaunty and surprisingly accessible Duo Concertante by Penderecki and the longer, darker Dyade by Rihm, both commissioned by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation and both dedicated to the fine young(ish) Slovakian bassist Roman Patkoló and, yes, to Mutter herself. Patkoló gave the premiere of André Previn's Double Concerto in 2007, along with Previn's ex-wife - Anne-Sophie Mutter again. That recording is available, incidentally, on the final disc of the above-mentioned 40-CD bonanza (and on the second CD of DG’s 6-disc Andre Previn – A Celebration. Ed.). .
Rihm's well-crafted Lichtes Spiel ('Play of Light') has a fairly similar feel to his Dyade, but with a small orchestra, mainly strings, replacing the double bass. The violin part is rapturous, now arcadian, now stratospheric, somewhat reminiscent of Alban Berg. The CD ends powerfully with Sebastian Currier's seven-movement violin quasi-concerto, Time Machines. The titles of the individual sections give some indication as to what to expect: Fragmented Time, Compressed Time, Overlapping Time, Backwards Time, and the variation in moods, textures, rhythms and so on is ensuantly impressive. Nonetheless the work can be characterised as broadly reflective, and does remain attractively tonal - nothing to worry anyone happy with Szymanowski's great concertos, for example. Currier's music is beginning to get the recordings it deserves - this sparkling premiere follows hard on the heels of a Naxos recording of his Sonata and other works for piano - for which, see review.
It is very difficult to fault any of the performances on this disc - the musicianship is a pleasure to perceive from start to finish. Mutter has the hardest job in four thoroughly virtuosic works and might on that basis be singled out, but DG have already been there, done that and sold the T-shirts.
Sound quality is excellent. The applause has been skilfully edited out of the live recordings, as much of the expected expectoration and rustling also seems to have been. The booklet is a fine glossy affair, the notes informative though tending curiously towards the pretentious. So star-struck are DG by Mutter's admittedly prodigious talent that they omitted to provide a biography of Patkoló, Gilbert or Francis, but they do atone, kind of, by giving the names - and sponsors - of the entire orchestra.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Mutter rarely disappoints, and certainly will not in these searing performances.