Anne-Sophie Mutter is celebrating a nearly thirty-year partnership with Lambert Orkis with an extensive European tour. Her gorgeous Galliano fishtail gown in buttercup-yellow reflected the golden tones of her Stradivarius. Sebastian Currier’s Clockwork (1989) opened the recital. Mutter has collaborated with the Princeton-based composer several times. This intricate single-movement piece is at times fractured and dissonant; Mutter and Orkis were individually virtuosic and also conveyed a yearning sadness with mechanised and repetitive rhythmic figures which are at times reminiscent of Ravel, who was also fascinated by the musical possibilities of the encroachments of the machine.
The Mozart is one of the composer’s late masterpieces. Mutter gave a tender and committed account of the first movement, with violin and piano competing with each other for rhythmic and melodic supremacy. The slow movement reached an expressive profundity which presaged the gravity of Beethoven and the poignancy of Schubert. Mutter and Orkis were equal partners in this dramatic dialogue, before the brilliant Finale banished all shadows with its sunny theatricality.
Mutter and Orkis made a persuasive case for the Respighi. Composed at the height of World War One, the Sonata begins with a theme of sad sweetness, combining Brahmsian melancholy with touches of Impressionism. The bell-like piano opening of the second movement leads to an expansive variation, in which Mutter’s phrasing was immaculate. A gnarled ‘Passacaglia’ rounds things off with increasing intensity.
The technical stakes reached their zenith with Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, conceived as a virtuoso piece for Sarasate and an overnight sensation. Mutter’s double-stopping and spiccato bowing were effortless. If there is a slight emotional distance, then the three encores had a wonderful informal and heartfelt quality: Tchaikovsky’s ‘Mélodie’ (from Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Opus 42), Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba and, most poignantly played, John Williams’s Theme from Schindler's List.