|Anne-Sophie Mutter and Krzysztof Penderecki
Her concert in Montreux (Switzerland); Mozart and Penderecki's Concerto for violin No. 2 (Métamorphoses), André Previn and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Buy the CD Penderecki's Concerto for violin No. 1 from Amazon.com
Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the great violonists of our time. Born
in Rheinfelden, Baden (Germany), she started her international career at
the tender age of 13 when director Herbert von Karajan gave her the chance
to perform as Soloist at the Salzburger Pfingstkonzert of 1977. The famous
german director called her "the greatest young musical talent [Frühbegabung]
since the young Menuhin". You can still buy her legendary performance recorded
a year later (Deutsche Grammophon. Mozart: Violin Concertos No. 3 and No.
5. Mutter, Karajan, Berliner Philharnoniker). Released in 1978, it won
her the Grand Prix International du Disque in 1979.
Anne-Sophie Mutter focuses especially on 20th-century violin music. Witold Lutoslawski, Norbert Moret, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Rihm and Sebastian Currier have dedicated works to her. In the next years, she will be performing world premieres of works commissioned by Paul Sacher at Pierre Boulez and Sofia Gubaidulina. In addition, Henri Dutilleux and Sebastian Currier are currently writing compositions for Anne-Sophie Mutter.
In Montreux, Switzerland, on November 20, 1999, Anne-Sophie Mutter performed at a Credit Suisse Gala Concert together with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra (Philadelphia) conducted by André Previn. The student orchestra has a reputation as a place were young talents are formed, since around 30 % of the "Big Five" musicians (artists of the five best symphony orchestras of the USA) have studied at the Curtis Institute of Music. In Montreux, they first performed Mozart's Symphony No. 39 and then, together with Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Concerto for Violin No. 3. Unfortunately, it is difficult to accurately judge these performances. The Auditorium Stravinski is not the ideal place to play Mozart. The concert hall mutes all sounds and gives the listener the impression of dull music. So, the pale impression the orchestra gave us is probably due in large part to the concert hall's imperfections.
After the break, Anne-Sophie Mutter and the orchestra performed Penderecki's Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2. Krzysztof Penderecki was born in 1933 in Debica 130 km east of Cracow. He studied violin, piano and composition at the same time as philosophie, history of art and literature in Cracow, where he has been teaching as music professor since the end of the 1950s. In 1959, Penderecki's first compositions won all three prizes at the Contest For Young Polish Composers. His following works from 1960 to 1966 - often with a religious background - earned him an international reputation and were performed in Germany and Italy, for instance. In the late 1960s, he started writing operas (The Devils of London, Paradise Lost or Ubu Rex). Among his works are also symphonies and chamber music. Pendercki also taught in Essen (1966-68), Germany, and at Yale University (1973-78), New Haven (USA).
The "Métamorphoses" is a piece commissioned by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. Penderecki wrote it between 1992 and 1995 and dedicated it to Anne-Sophie Mutter. In 1995 in Leipzig, it was first performed by the symophony orchestra of East German radio conducted by Mariss Jansons and with Anne-Sophie Mutter as its first soloist. In January 1998 the CD, recorded by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer himself, was released by Deutsche Grammophon (453 507-2). In 1999, the CD with the Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2 won two "Grammy Awards" as "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance With Orchestra" and as "Best Classical Contemporary Composition".
Montreux was our first chance to hear it live. A lot of people think that classical music had its heyday before the Second World War, that nothing important followed afterwards. Although we believe that some postwar currents in classical music have no future (like, in another musical genre, freejazz), Penderecki is the proof to the contrary. Written two decades after his first concerto for violin, his Metamorphoses are far from his beginnings as a composer in the late 50s and the 60s when he explored "the borders between musical sounds and noise" (Wolfram Schwinger). Later he turned his back on the avant-garde, on twelve-note techniques. Penderecki tried to continue musical idioms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
His Metmorphoses are an impressive and convincing work. He explores the relation between indivdiual (the violin) and society (the orchestra). Several motifs set up in its opening section reappear in different shapes and forms during the concerto, sometimes diguised, sometimes openly. The soloist-orchestra relationship varies. For instance, the violin gets harassed and threatened by the orchestra. It tries to escape (pizzicato). Suddenly, it turns around and says no, that's enough, takes courage and opposes the orchestra. Although the orchestra tries to dominate the violin again, the solo instrument resists. The violin, like the individual, is looking for its place in society. Penderecki's religious motifs are transparent in the end when the violin turns itself to the stars and escapes in a transfigured way. Both Anne-Sophie Mutter's interpretation and the orchestra's performance were stunning. The Metamorphoses are surely a highlight of late 20th-century classical music and Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of its best ambassadors. The only negative note came at the end of the concert when the soloist couldn't be moved by the huge applause to play a encore. The star acted like a diva. If you know you won't play no more, simply say so to the public, which will understand. Instead, she came out for times just to be greeted by applause. Even an ambassador has his less memorable moments.
In the year 2000, Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform 20th-century violin music in New York at Carnegie Hall and at the Avery Fisher Hall, together with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonics. In Mai, this Festival will be repeated in London, and then in Stuttgart and Frankfurt-on-Main (Germany) with Kurt Masur and the London Symphony Orchestra. If you have a chance to see Anne-Sophie Mutter live, don't miss it. Otherwise, get the CD of her Penderecki Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2 - you won't regret it.
Buy the CD Penderecki's Concerto for violin No. 2 (Métamorphoses) from Amazon.com
No. 1, December 1999
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