Anne-Sophie Mutter in Recital in Manchester

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Mozart, Schubert, Lutosławski, Saint-Saëns: Anne Sophie Mutter (violin), Lambert Orkis (piano), Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 20.3.2012 (MC)

Mozart: Violin Sonata (No. 27) in G major, K379 (1781)
Fantasy in C major, D934 (1827)
Partita (1984)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75 (1885)

In today’s world of popular culture fame comes virtually overnight and often disappears in a flash. Acclaim came early for Anne- Sophie Mutter growing into stardom that has endured owing to her great musicianship and charismatic stage presence. It was wonderful to have Mutter back in Manchester. I’m not sure when she last performed in the city but in an interview that I had with her prior to the recital she related fond memories of a concert with Stanisław Skrowaczewski and the Hallé Orchestra at the Free Trade Hall. She was surprised to learn that the nearby building had been converted into a hotel.

Understanding the importance of immaculate presentation Mutter looked quite stunning in her pale turquoise strapless haute couture gown providing playing that was as exquisite as her taste in clothes. It was a rare privilege to experience such a marvellous recital in terms of music content, wonderful atmosphere and sheer talent as presented by Mutter and her faithful accompanist Lambert Orkis. Mutter is a stalwart of a generation of performers where the lesser lights are in danger of being swamped by a crop of younger artists. In terms of youthful enthusiasm and good looks Mutter could be one of this youthful generation but it’s when you hear her elevated playing that her excellence, assurance and experience shine out like a beacon. She likes to keep things fresh and expand her repertoire as her discography demonstrates. Included along with the obligatory war-horses of the repertoire are numerous contemporary works many of them written especially for her.

In this fascinatingly constructed programme a cleverly shaped mix of the established, unfairly neglected and reasonably challenging offered something for everyone. Mutter  chose to open with a mature Mozart score, the Violin Sonata No. 27 in G major, and her deeply moving playing of the melodic and spacious opening Adagio sent a shiver down the spine. Mutter considers Schubert’s late Fantasy in C major to be a neglected masterwork. Making a convincing case for the elevated merits of the score Mutter played seductively with an interpretation high on expressive artistry and abundant warmth and feeling.

Anyone stuck on a light diet of George Gershwin and Andrew Lloyd Webber might have baulked at the prospect of Lutosławski’s Partita that opened the second half. This is a moderately challenging score, accessible with a reasonable degree of listening concentration, and  guess the majority of the audience would have been hearing the Partita for the first time.  Some of the loudest applause of the night was saved for this absorbing Lutosławski offering with its fast moving score inhabiting varied and often thrilling moods.  Saint-Saëns’s passionately Romantic D minor First Violin Sonata made a fitting conclusion to the recital. Plucking at the heartstrings Mutter and Orkis were so finely attuned to every nuance of the music. Especially enjoyable was their expressive interpretation of the first movement Allegro agitato allowing me to clearly hear the composer’s impressionist suggestions.

Mutter and Orkis’s unity was impeccable with the partnership instinctively knowing each other’s every move – an ineffable meeting of musical minds. What were those critical press comments about Mutter not giving encores? The attentive Manchester audience earned two. This was a quite special recital from Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis that will last long in the memory.

Michael Cookson