Austria Salzburg Festival 2021  – Mozart, Beethoven, Franck: Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Lambert Orkis (piano). Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, 28.8.2021. (LV)
Mozart – Sonata in E minor No.21, K.304
Beethoven – Sonata No.5 in F major Op.24, ‘Spring’
Franck – Sonata in A major
Dressed in a stunning saffron-yellow gown that matched her similarly exquisite Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius, Anne-Sophie Mutter returned to Salzburg with a conventional program of Mozart, Beethoven and Franck unconventionally played, most noticeably in the Mozart, without vibrato at times and using an unusual amount of sotto voce for dramatic effect. Lambert Orkis, her willing partner, seemed aware that, despite his own elegant virtuosity and the obvious decades-old hand in glove relationship he has with Mutter (they chatted incessantly whenever leaving the stage), it was clear she was the evening’s crown jewel, and his sparkle level was noticeably less than hers.
The Mozart Sonata in E minor, which Mutter played on her ‘Berlin recital’ in 1995 after the death of her husband, Detlef Wunderlich, began ghostly, introspective, as if it were an introduction to the Allegro. In the Tempo di Menuetto, a type of theme and variations which Mozart was curiously attracted to and seemed to reserve for special occasions, Mutter stated the theme first in hushed tones, then full voice, then closed sotto voce, as if in a reverie. The major key variation was similarly reflective, and the end came suddenly with considerable emotional impact.
Beethoven’s ‘Spring’ Sonata was the most untroubled performance of the night. Mutter still employed pianissimi now and then in the opening Allegro but strode with marvelous bold strokes after the first movement explosion, pushing through a memory lapse in the development. In the Scherzo it sounded for once as if the violinist were actually trying to catch the piano instead of it being just a mischievous scramble, and in the concluding Rondo, Mutter wonderfully found the music’s serenity.
The César Franck’s Sonata in A major also began sounding ghostly but with vibrato and a song in Mutter’s heart. She described the piece to me in an interview a week ago as ‘a wonderful concerto for piano and violin, so hyperromantic, with a canvas full of colors for the violin and requiring a great pianist’. And after setting the house on fire with their soaring, lyrical performance, Mutter and Orkis returned to play two sweetly sentimental pieces by John Williams, ‘Nice to be around’ from Cinderella Liberty and the theme from Schindler’s List, bookending Brahms’s First Hungarian Dance.