Edinburgh International Festival 2015 – Anne-Sophie Mutter and Friends (The Mutter Virtuosi) – Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and an André Previn premiere

Duo concertante for violin and double bass [UK premiere]
André Previn
Nonet for two string quartets and double bass [world premiere]
Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV1043
Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, Op.8 – I-IV: Le quattro stagioni [The Four Seasons]

The Mutter Virtuosi:
Anne-Sophie Mutter, Ye-Eun Choi, Wei Lu & Fanny Clamagirand (violins), Vladimir Babeshko & Hwayoon Lee (violas), Maximilian Hornung & Pablo Ferrandez (cellos), Roman Patkolo (double bass) and Knut Johannessen (harpsichord; Bach & Vivaldi)

Reviewed by: Gregor Tassie

Reviewed: 26 August, 2015
Venue: Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Krzysztof Penderecki & Anne-Sophie Mutter in 2000Photograph: PAP/Andrzej RybczyńskiAnne-Sophie Mutter and Krzysztof Penderecki have enjoyed a friendship which has resulted in several works including this Duo concertante from 2011; Mutter’s Foundation for the encouragement of highly talented string-players commissioned it. Mutter established her Foundation in 2006 to assist musicians to develop their careers – through teaching, provision of instruments and contacts – and The Mutter Virtuosi was created in the year Penderecki wrote his relatively short piece in three movements and betraying influence by Shostakovich, yet there is present Penderecki’s unmistakeable language. It contains a variety of different textures and atmospheres, ranging from expressive recitatives to wild, scampering passages. The double-bass part is notated in scordatura which allows its strings to be tuned a tone higher than normal. The violin dominates the opening Andante and in the middle and concluding movements, all the musicians are given a wealth of stirring virtuosity.

André PrevinPhotograph: www.andre-previn.comThe Nonet by Mutter’s ex-husband André Previn also results from a fruitful artistic collaboration. In Nonet there are some colourful themes and a seductive idea that would not be out of place in one of his film scores, and the mood throughout is one of elegance and grace. The two string quartets gradually develop their own identities of polite conversation and incisive contention with the double bass acting as a go-between. They unite in the strenuous Presto coda, and then there comes a surprise with the tempo easing-off for serene D-major chords. The energetic finale gave Mutter’s ensemble a sonorous richness and agile precision, arriving at complete accord.

On more familiar ground, J. S. Bach’s Double Concerto was notable for wonderful virtuosity from Mutter, the other violinists given a chance to display their gifts, one in each of the three movements. There has always been a steeliness to Mutter’s playing, and this was evident in the opening Vivace, and in the Largo and Finale she revealed warmth and vivacity, and the Concerto closed joyously and brightly.

As for Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, this collection of violin concertos was given all the richness and brilliance of the Venetian master’s writing was revealed in full colours. Mutter still plays at the peak of her powers and artistry, and one can’t remember a more astonishing account – it was as if hearing the work for the first time. Remarkably, this concert marked Anne-Sophie Mutter’s debut at the Edinburgh International Festival.

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