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Monday, November 22, 2010

Concert Review: Anne-Sophie Mutter Conducts Mozart

Anne-Sophie Mutter opened her tenure as New York Philharmonic Artist in Residence with a series of concerts contrasting the violin concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the modern music of German composer Wolfgang Rihm.
Anne-Sophie Mutter. Photo by Harald Hoffmann © 2007 Deutsche Grammophon
Saturday night's concert at Avery Fisher Hall featured the German violinist in exceptional form, leading a stripped-down version of the Philharmonic with maybe 18 players on the stage. The program, designed by Ms. Mutter as part of her residency, aimed at bridging the gap between centuries, using the three Mozart concertos to provide a contrast and context for the piece by Wolfgang Rihm, which was played second. Oh and she conducted.

Leading three Mozart concertos 'from the fiddle', Ms. Mutter opened the concert with the first Violin Concerto. This is an early work, and while it has the brilliance of a young virtuoso player testing the limits of the instrument, it does not have the substance of fully developed Mozart. The highlight is the slow movement, which Ms. Mutter played with a warm, singing tone.

Lichtes Spiel is written for violin and a small, Mozart-sized orchestra. Wolfgang Rihm paints with a fine brush, establishing a wash of hushed strings and a texture of flutes and oboe for Ms. Mutter to solo over. Her violin is the sad, keening voice, a golden thread in this tapestry of sound. Eventually, the work rises to a powerful climax, before gradually dying away into silence.

The Third Violin Concerto shows Mozart writing light, graceful melodies. Ms. M utter played with uncommonly sweet tone through a thrilling series of solo instrumental passages, verging at times on operatic recitative. The second movement features one of Mozart's warmest, most operatic slow movements, played here with real tenderness.

The "Turkish" concerto was taken at a very fast speed, with Ms. Mutter leading the Philharmonic players in a brisk, efficient performance. Ms. Mutter contributed stylish playing, uncommonly sweet tone, and fleet bowing to this tricky concerto, written at the very peak of the composer's powers.

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