THE QUEEN OF THE VIOLIN AND THE SSO | Anne-Sophie Mutter holds court in Sydney

Image: Deutsche Grammophon ⓒ Anjer Frers/DG

Image: Deutsche Grammophon ⓒ Anjer Frers/DG

Now she’s found us, it seems “the queen of the violin” simply can’t get enough of Australia and she is currently planning to perform and spend time with friends, for her third visit here, in September.

Her unforgettable performances with the SSO have been rewarded with thunderous standing ovations over the years. On her upcoming tour she brings her peerless musical insight to Dvorak’s expressive Violin Concerto and his song-like Romance for violin and orchestra, for Sydney audiences only.

Jakub Hrůša is also making his third visit to Sydney, this time bringing his Czech understanding to the music of Dvořák. Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony makes for an exciting conclusion to a program that is one of the highlights of the SSO calendar.

Both the soloist and the conductor spoke with Fine Music magazine about their impending visit and the highlights of their respective years to date.

A life of music

Mutter was born in Rheinfelden, Germany in 1963. She began playing the piano at the age of five, and shortly afterwards took up the violin, studying with Erna Honigberger, a pupil of Carl Flesch.  After Honigberger’s death she continued her studies with Aida Stucki at the Winterthur Conservatory.

At 13, she was invited by Herbert von Karajan to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. At 14, she made her début at the Salzburg Festival with the English Chamber Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim and at 15 her first recording, of Mozart’s Third and Fifth Violin Concertos, with von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.

After almost 40 years on stage, Fine Music asked Mutter to undertake the unenviable task of highlighting some of the most important moments. One of these was her début with von Karajan on 28 May, 1977.

“As well, all the world premieres of pieces written for me,” Mutter continues.

“I am expecting the world premiere of Andre Previn’s Nonett this August to be amongst them.”

The highly-awarded virtuoso has built a strong reputation for championing contemporary music with several works being composed especially for her including by Sebastian Currier, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, Witold Lutosławski, Norbert Moret, Krzysztof Penderecki, Andre Previn, and Wolfgang Rihm.

In 1998 Mutter played and recorded the complete set of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, accompanied by Lambert Orkis; these were broadcast on television in many countries.

Despite her prodigious career in music, Mutter is also well-known (and loved by many of her fans around the world) for her humanitarian work and, through her own foundation, as a teacher and mentor to young musicians.

While there are “many social and medical causes” that are currently close to her heart, Mutter recently put on a benefit concert with, in fact, Lambert Orkis, for people with special needs.

“Above all children are a great passion of mine and therefore the orphanages in Romania and White Russia are a commitment I am dedicating my time and financial means to on a regular basis” Mutter tells Fine Music magazine.

“My foundation of young string players which is working worldwide is still expecting to be of help to a great Australian talent. So please keep applying,” she urged.

A look at Mutter’s stream on social media reveals her down-to-earth personality and dynamism reflected in her interaction with friends and fans, as well as her real commitment to improving the lives of others. She has been quoted as saying that creating music is a humbling experience. When asked about this she says: “Life is complicated for most of us. Among others, we all struggle to find a profession we can identify with.

“For us musicians it is a great present to travel around the world and communicate through and with music with an audience of almost every cultural and religious background. It is indeed a humbling experience to be reminded again and again of Goethe’s quote, ‘Under our clothes we are all naked’.

She goes on to enjoin us to remember Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy: “Let us try at least the few hours in the concert hall to not only sharing time together but also our hearts!”

It’s easy to envisage this sentiment, with glorious music being played in the Sydney Opera House, above all “an unforgettable experience because of the nature of its architecture, the acoustics and the location” says Mutter.

“But it is nothing without the passionate and outspoken Australian audience which we musicians love so dearly,” she adds.

Sydney program

The Dvorak concerto is yet another romantic work that was written for the great violinist Joseph Joachim. The piece is full of Czech melodies and particularly the finale with its Dumka insert in the middle gives the concerto a truly unique flavor.

“Watch out for the extremely exposed coloratura at the beginning of the concerto. It is one of a kind and probably the reason why it is performed rarely – only a violinist without vertigo can survive this,” explains Mutter.

“As to the Romance by Dvořák it is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written and I am confident that the SSO and Jakub Hrůša will bring the very much needed flavour to the interpretation of this great Czech composer,” she says.

“I am very much looking forward to working with this young conductor for the first time. He had basically learned Dvorak’s language with mother’s milk. I am sure the audience will enjoy the program greatly.”

When asked what Sydney audiences can expect from the upcoming performance, Hrůša told Fine Music magazine: “I would say the audiences can expect two hearts burning for the loveliest music, hopefully igniting the existing enthusiasm of the players as well – and then, accordingly, the enthusiasm of the audiences themselves”.

“We are privileged to perform these pieces of genius for everyone in the public. It would be, however, quite in vain to try to anticipate what will come in words”.

Of Mutter he says: “I respect her immensely. Of course then, there is a great deal of responsibility… but that usually inspires me to enjoy the moment even more. I hope you will feel it”.

Born in the Czech Republic and described by Gramophone as “on the verge of greatness”,

Jakub Hrůša is Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonia and Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

He is a regular guest with many of Europe’s leading orchestras, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony, WDR Symphony Cologne and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to name a few.

In the field of opera, Hrůša made his Glyndebourne Festival and Tour debuts in 2008 conducting Carmen, followed by Don Giovanni (Festival and Tour 2010), The Turn of the Screw (Festival 2011), La bohème (Tour 2011) and Rusalka (Tour 2012). He has also led productions for Royal Danish Opera and Prague National Theatre.

… the passionate and outspoken Australian audience

As a recording artist, he has released six discs for Supraphon including a critically-acclaimed live recording of Smetana’s Má vlast from the Prague Spring Festival in 2010. Other recordings include the Tchaikovsky and Bruch violin concertos with Nicola Benedetti and the Czech Philharmonic for Universal and, more recently, a live recording of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique with Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Since his first visit to Australia was one with “music making”, he “can’t feel this beautiful city otherwise” he says.

His other highlights from recent years include the operatic productions in Paris (Rusalka) and Glyndebourne (Carmen), and the 20 year anniversary celebrations of the Prague Philharmonia (PKF), and orchestra he has been leading for several years. Hrůša has in fact farewelled PKF, after some 13 seasons of stable collaboration, and will be a permanent guest conductor at Czech Philharmonic for its next season.

“Very recently I enjoyed fantastic concerts with a special orchestra I adore – Bamberg Symphony,” said Hrůša.

Soon it will be “rather hot”, he says. “I have my début with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam (with Frank Peter Zimmermann) and in Vienna State Opera (in a new production of Janacek’s Makropulos Case)”.

And although some may speculate on whether Mutter will continue to perform and tour, she assures us that it is not her last visit to Australian shores. While she will only perform in Sydney this time around, she will “spend a few days with friends in the country side working on a travel holiday schedule for my next visit”, she says.

I am absolutely passionate planning to come back to Australia not only to perform but to have an extended vacation in this wonderful country.”

When asked if there is anything she has yet to achieve musically, Mutter says: “Being a musician is a work in progress and every performance – if one is lucky – is expanding your horizon and therefore one emerges with new ideas and musical goals even in repertoire you think you know since decades.

“Having said that, my new passion is to play piano trio with Yefim Bronfman and Lynn Harrell and the three of us hope to come to Australia soon as a Piano-Trio” – an event that many will no doubt excitedly await.” – Paula Wallace


Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Dvořák

23, 25, 26 September 8pm

Sydney Opera House

Dvořák  Violin Concerto

Romance for violin

BEETHOVEN Symphony No.3, Eroica

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Anne-Sophie Mutter violin

This article was the feature story from the September edition of Fine Music Magazine. To receive a copy of this magazine in your mail box each month, subscribe to Fine Music 102.5. 


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