Beethovens Romances (the one in F erroneously described as Op.41 in the programme) found Anne-Sophie Mutter digging deep into the strings to the detriment of both intonation and tone. Masurs flowing tempos and light accompaniment were admirable; Mutters vibrato-ridden, over-sweet expression, and extremes of dynamics and character, swamped the musics innocence.
Notwithstanding that Masur is just a few months away from becoming Music Director of the French National Orchestra, he is not especially associated with French music. If only by a few degrees, Masur didnt get under the skin of either La mer or La valse. The former was thoughtfully balanced and nuanced, sometimes fluid, sometimes literal. Masurs strictness did yield a sense of impressionism and suggestiveness but his tight rein vied phrasal seductiveness with militaristic precision. Although Masurs concern for detail was lucidly reproduced by the LPO, more visceral attack was needed (especially in the last movement, the ad-lib brass fanfares played); La mer also requires something more elemental, dissolving and nurtured.
La valse (1920) from sinister opening to Viennese swirl to annihilation is surely a metaphor for the destruction caused by the First World War. Masurs obvious affection for the piece drew some finely honed playing and beguiling shaping. Masur is too intelligent a musician to play Ravels masterpiece as a mere showpiece; yet, the killer punch that signals the collapse of the waltz lacked vehemence, and the desperate final pages were without frenzy.
A new work by Henri Dutilleux is an event. He is now halfway through his ninth decade. On the same chord demonstrates that his compositional vitality and elegant craftsmanship are undiminished. Here Mutter could be herself in this piece written for her, one notable for its translucent soundworld and spectral vigour nocturnal indeed. The violin solo is equal with the orchestra, which is fairly standard in numbers two each of woodwind, horns, trumpets and trombones, one tuba and harp, and enough percussion for three players plus timpani and strings.
As ever with the meticulous Frenchman, every note, colour and inflection is significant. Here one perceives a distillation of his art. The language is recognisably his in this 8-minute work (11 or 12 had been anticipated) but theres now a paring-down to essentials. The solo violin introduces, pizzicato, the six notes of the chord; linear presentation becomes vertical as the chord is used harmonically through slow-fast divisions to a short, rapid coda.
Dutilleuxs compression of episodes leaves the listener wanting to relish the piece again; blink and youll miss something. Yet a first hearing immediately suggests Sur le même accord as a gem of the contemporary violin/orchestra repertoire, one that abounds in incident fleet, iridescent and lyrically intense (a suggestion of Bergs concerto at one point). Hopefully Mutter will record it perhaps to go with the concerto that André Previn has recently written for her and the one Pierre Boulez has promised.
- This concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for future broadcast