Fiddler on the podium

February 3, 2014 by Fraser Beath McEwing
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Supremo violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter hosted a sold-out Opera House audience for a feast of Mozart concertos…writes Fraser Beath McEwing.


Anne-Sophie Mutter  Photo: Henry Benjamin

Anne-Sophie Mutter Photo: Henry Benjamin

Sydney Opera House patrons had been looking forward to the return of this extraordinary musician after her knockout Australian debut in March of 2012 when she played the Beethoven violin concerto. This time she presented quite a different style of concert by playing three Mozart violin concertos consecutively while conducting 30 players drawn from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. It was Mozart from start to finish with a garnish of Bach’s Air on a G String (Mutter plus five other strings) as one of two encores.

Mozart composed five violin concertos in a relatively short period from1773 to 1775, after which he never returned to the form. From those, Mutter selected numbers two, three and five. They represent many different moods and styles, but are nevertheless mainstream Mozart. The exceptions are the cadenzas written by three different violinists from later periods. These gave Mutter a chance to break free of the classical tradition for a time and display her incomparable technique and tonal range. For the rest, she played as part of the orchestra, letting her Stradivarius sound lift her into the solo role. Incidentally, there are just over 500 Strads still in existence, two of which reside with Anne-Sophie. She is said to treat her travelling Strad like an additional limb in that it never leaves her side.

As to conducting the pint-sized orchestra, Mutter lived up to her contention that she doesn’t conduct, but simply leads. She could hardly do much more, having to hold fiddle and bow which gave her only one snow-white arm to wave at the clearly admiring players. An audience bonus was viewing a continually changing front, side and back view of a woman as beautiful as the music she brings forth. I recalled her comments last visit to Sydney when she said that she didn’t have to buy new evening gowns because the old ones were classics that still fitted her. Nothing has changed.

Fraser Beath McEwing is an accomplished pianist and commentator on classical music performance and is a founding member of The theme & Variations Foundation Advisory Board which provides assistance to talented young Australian pianists. His professional background is in journalism, editing and publishing. He is also the author of three novels.He is a Governor of the Sir Moses Montefiore Home.


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