Bach: Concerto for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D Minor, BWV 1043
André Previn: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra (with two Harpsichord interludes)
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
For most music lovers there are few pleasures in life that can equate to listening to Anne-Sophie Mutter play just about anything on the violin, and luckily for New Yorkers, she is the topic of a Carnegie Hall Perspectives series this season, which means that we can experience her ever-dazzling talent in a wide range of concerts, many of which focus on her unwavering commitment to music education and contemporary composers.
So this past Tuesday my friend Christine and I seized this opportunity to go hear Carnegie Hall’s unofficial Woman of the Year and some alumni of her Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, the Mutter Virtuosi, perform Vivaldi’s ever-popular The Four Seasons, which would be preceded by a major work by Bach and a US premiere by André Previn. The day was particularly cold and windy, but that obviously did not stop a large crowd, including an unusual high number of young people, to pack up the concert hall for a string-heavy concert led by the peerless violinist, who played like a goddess, and incidentally looked like one too.
Performing a demanding work by Johann Sebastian Bach with veteran violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter in Carnegie Hall's stately Stern Auditorium has to be an equally daunting and exciting milestone for any young musician, and it was occasionally felt in their playing, which was committed, for sure, but not as polished as it may have been in less paralyzing circumstances. There was still plenty to be enjoyed though, and it was. "Mutter" means "Mother" in German, and Anne-Sophie Mutter certainly kept a motherly watch over her protégés while still letting them engage in occasional flights of fancy on their own. Banding closely together, they did their best to bring out the austere beauty of the Concerto for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo with dutiful studiousness, but also poise and gusto.
Dedicated to Anne-Sophie Mutter, André Previn’s Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra mostly stood out as a welcome transition to the Baroque masterpiece that was to follow it with its appealing lyricism, spiky passages, and two – slightly overextended, if you ask me – harpsichords interludes. Not as challenging as Bach and not as expansive as The Four Seasons, it turned out to be a pleasant, varied exercise, which soloist and students carried out nicely.
No matter how many times you've heard them, it is nearly impossible not to fall victim to the irresistible power of attraction of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons one more time. And sure enough, with its countless pretty melodies, richly evocative sounds and perfectly balanced movements, the universally beloved classic among classics beautifully unfolded from the stage on Tuesday evening, prompting so many applause outbursts between movements that after another wave of enthusiastic clapping rewarded a particularly lively celebration of fall harvest, Anne-Sophie Mutter had to point out to the audience that there was still "One more season!". Spring enchanted with nature’s rebirth, full of hope and promises, Summer's oppressive heat finally broke when the mighty storm exploded, Fall enthralled with colorful, care-free revelry, Winter emphasized the ethereally delicate snow and the unforgiving icy rain. A true master of emotional intelligence way before it became an over-used buzzword, Antonio Vivaldi came up with the perfect composition to prove once and for all that descriptive music could be powerful, sophisticated, and still please the crowds. The Mutter Virtuosi sounded totally in their element and delivered a happily exuberant performance around their leader’s virtuosic feats.
This special occasion was wrapped up with another, definitely no-holds-barred, rendition of the Summer's storm by Vivaldi, before coming full circle to Bach and a simply sublime "Air on a G String", the ultimate parting gift before going to the cold winter reality .