Anne-Sophie Mutter in recital

I went to the all-Brahms recital by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis at Davies Symphony Hall last night.

First of all, yes, she was wearing her “mermaid” dress. This is the dress in which she was photographed for her recent Mozart Concertos DVD. She is known for her signature strapless gowns, purportedly because she feels that her violin resonates best when played against her bare skin (she does not use a shoulder bar). She did not , however, wear the large aquamarine ring on her bow hand that was featured prominently in the DVD.

She is still one of the exceedingly few performing artists in the world today whose sound from her instrument is completely transparent to her soul during live performances. When you hear her sound, it is not obvious whether it is violin, or classical or baroque or modern music – it just pure expression. And this is what “hits” you as an audience member. You might not be able to put it into words, but it just speaks to you. It makes you want to listen, because it simply must be heard.

She performed all three Brahms violin sonatas, and then closed the performance with FOUR (yes, 4) encores. The first was a piece I didn’t know (but want to find out!), followed by Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 2, and finally Brahms’ famous lullaby. The last was just amazing, because you could feel the entire Davies Symphony Hall leaning in a little closer, just to hear the incredibly smooth, delicate pianissimo sound of this simple melody on her violin.

All of Mutter’s playing I describe as “refined”. Even her most passionate moments are expressed through a lens of elegance and grace. The effortless relationship with her pianist was obviously the result of their lifetime of collaboration – every pause, breath, phrasing choice, dynamic, and even sense of humor was perfectly aligned. I was so glad when she came out for that fourth and final encore. With her US appearances such a rare occurrence (her last appearance in San Francisco was in 2000), I was glad she took some extra time to allow us to enjoy it along with her.

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