Legendary German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, sometimes dubbed “Queen of the Violin,” returns to Santa Barbra for a recital, tonight at the Granada Theatre.
Ann-Sophie Mutter, with pianist Lambert Orkis
When: 7 p.m., tonight
Where: The Granada, 1216 State St.
Cost: $39-$69, UCSB Students, $16
Information: 899-3000, www.granadasb.org
Last week was a rough one for the German violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter. On top of a typically busy, globe-traversing schedule—including an American tour which includes a stop at the Granada Theatre tonight—news arrived about the passing of conductor-pianist-composer André Previn. Mr. Previn, once the maestro of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a jazz pianist and film composer amidst a lifetime of sterling credits, was long Ms. Mutter’s ally and musical compatriot, and also an ex-husband (2002-06, but after which they continued an amiable and working relationship).
A day after his death, last Thursday, the violinist offered a public statement: “André Previn has for more than 70 years illuminated this often dark world with his extraordinary gifts, his superb intelligence and wit. We were companions in music for four decades and closest and dearest soulmates in the last 19 years. These years have brought me an abundance of deeply moving and challenging violin works. One of the first of them, the violin concerto, was an engagement present. I am forever grateful for all of his musical treasures.
“André will live on in the hearts of the millions of music lovers that his life and music has touched. His many scores will continue to enrich the life of musicians around the globe. Right now, André is probably in the middle of a jam session with (late jazz great) Oscar (Peterson) and Wolfgang (Amadeus Mozart)… and he will outplay them. I will miss him and our almost daily conversations terribly.”
Her link to Mr. Previn was just one of many spanning the music world, and generations of important classical music legends, also including Herbert Von Karajan, Witold Lutoslawski, Wolfgang Rihm and John Williams. Sometimes dubbed “Queen of the Violin,” Ms. Mutter, now 55, is in the heat of a career in the international spotlight going back to her mid-teenaged years with her stage debut at the Lucerne and Salzburg Festivals.
She has thankfully made Santa Barbara a fairly regular stopping place. In this decade alone, she has honed a habit of commanding the stage of the Granada Theater and living up to high expectations. In 2013, she appeared with long-standing pianist Lambert Orkis (also performing with her tonight), and returned in 2015 with a power trio, alongside pianist Yefim Bronfman and double bassist Lynn Harrell.
For tonight’s musical menu, she will perform two sonatas by Mozart, along with extending a French focus on music of Ravel, Debussy and Poulenc.
For a celebrity classical musician who was rumored to be entertaining retirement thought a decade ago (she shrugged off such talk as so much misrepresentation), Ms. Mutter is riding high in this phase of her musical life. Just this year, she was the recipient of Sweden’s prestigious Polar Music Award, high praises well-deserved.
In her vast discography, most for the Deutsche Gramaphon label, last year saw the release of two albums whose variety painted a picture of her musical story. “Early Years” is a visit to her auspicious formative years, released in the same year she released a rich, cerebral tribute to great Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, one of many contemporary composers the violinist has performed and/or had written new works for her.
For Ms. Mutter, the contemporary music appetite came relatively late, but has burrowed into her musical being. “I started to get interested in contemporary music,” she says, “which goes only back to the mid-‘80s.” She points out that Lutoslawski, who wrote works for her and was a thematic focus of her 2013 Granada recital, “was the man who opened the door to the 21st century for me.
“Now, the balance between the standard repertoire and the contemporary repertoire is something very important and inspiring to me, because talking with and playing for the living composer has taught me that it’s obvious that so many different interpretations, tempi, viewpoints, are very often appreciated and welcomed by the composers. That, of course, is also true for the composers of the past. There is not a formula. You always have to look and dig deeper.”
Her current American tour, which included dates at Walt Disney Concert Hall before Santa Barbara and San Francisco’s Davies Hall following it, logically climaxes in that primary American music haven of Carnegie Hall, on March 12. There, she will play much the same repertoire as what we hear at the Granada tonight, but with one notable addition—a world premiere performance of Sebastian Currier’s “Ghost Trio.” She has premiered other music by the American composer Mr. Currier, and appreciates opportunities for her to act as “muse” for important composers of the day.
“Over the decades,” she comments, “I have actually started to tremendously treasure and enjoy my humble, small role as a muse to composers. I find that a really wonderful part of my profession, because, although great composers don’t need us, it’s very beautiful to see that throughout music history, there have been people for whom pieces have been written, and without whom, they probably wouldn’t exist.
“So this relationship between the performer and the composer can be something very healthy, and even positive for the composers themselves, not only for the player. That is something which, as the end of days, is not only a duty for me, but something which I terribly enjoy and need.”
And, needless to say, one of those strong musical forces she long enjoyed the company of was Mr. Previn, whose Violin Concerto has Ms. Mutter’s musical voice written all over it. Previn’s music lives on, as does the very much continuing and evolving saga of the “Queen of the Violin.”