Lass uns über Klassik reden

When Anne-Sophie Mutter talks about her enthusiasm for the music of John Williams, which will be performed for the first time in September at an open air concert on the Königsplatz in Munich, the spark jumps over and time flies by.

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Legendary film composer John Williams conducts a brand-new album of many of his beloved movie themes in stunning new adaptations written especially for his superstar violinist friend and collaborator Anne-Sophie Mutter. Recorded in Hollywood, Across the Stars will be released on 30 August on Deutsche Grammophon and includes familiar themes from blockbuster films including Star Wars and Harry Potter, as never heard before.

“There is only one John Williams,” says Anne-Sophie Mutter. “What he writes is just extraordinary. Every time I go to one of his films and there is a violin or cello, I think, I would like to play that! And now I have his wonderful translations of all these iconic themes.”

 John Williams adds: “Working with Anne-Sophie on this recording has been a pure inspiration. She has brought vibrant life to these familiar themes in new and unexpected ways, which has been a great joy for me as a composer.”

 Alongside Mutter as soloist, Williams assembled an extraordinary group of musicians with whom he has worked over the years to form the 70-piece Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles. They recorded over five days in April at the historic Sony Pictures Scoring Stage, where many great film soundtracks of the past were recorded, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Singin’ In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, E.T. and many more.

 John Williams – who has won five Oscars, four Golden Globes, five Emmys and 24 Grammys – explains that for this project he’s revisited themes from many of his existing scores and completely transformed them: “Presented on the violin, they become a different emotional experience.” One example is his newly arranged version of “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter films, which he and Mutter describe as “Harry Potter meets Paginini” and “a Carmen Fantasy for the 21st century”. Listen to the single HERE.

 The music ranges from Star Wars motifs such as “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back, “Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi and the title track “Across the Stars” from Attack of the Clones, to more recent pieces such as “The Duel” from The Adventures of Tintin and “Sayuri’s Theme” from Memoirs of a Geisha. Listen to the new track HERE.

 In addition to the haunting violin melodies from Williams’ Oscar-winning Schindler’s List score, the album features new versions of themes from Cinderella Liberty and Dracula (originally written in the 1970s and rarely performed since then) along with the Irish-flavoured ‘Donnybrook Fair’ from Far and Away and the romantic theme from Sabrina.

 Anne-Sophie Mutter, a four-time Grammy winner and widely acclaimed as one of the finest violinists of our time, says it was “a tremendous honour” to work so closely with John Williams – and that the recording conditions for this album were the finest since she collaborated with Herbert von Karajan.

 The admiration is mutual as Williams calls Mutter “the greatest violinist that Germany has produced in a hundred years”. Discussing their collaboration on Across the Stars, he notes that her decision to perform “some melodies of mine is very flattering, and a great honour”.

 John Williams and Anne-Sophie Mutter were introduced by their mutual friend André Previn nearly a decade ago. It was Previn who encouraged Williams to write for her. Their first musical partnership was Markings (for solo violin, strings and harp), which Mutter premiered in 2017 at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the United States. A year later, she premiered Williams’ new arrangement of “Across the Stars” during Deutsche Grammophon’s 120-year anniversary gala concert in Berlin with Manfred Honeck conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin.

 Mutter will perform much of this newly created repertoire in concerts later this year. She will appear with the Boston Pops Orchestra on 7 July at Tanglewood, with John Williams and David Newman sharing conducting duties. Newman and Mutter will reunite on 14 September for another all-Williams concert, this time with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Munich’s Königsplatz, in what will be her first ever open-air concert appearance.

 Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams both consider Across the Stars to be a milestone recording. Mutter recalls growing up in Germany’s Black Forest and falling in love with the music of Star Wars as a teenager. “These are melodies which touch us so deeply, they just stay with you,” says Mutter. “That’s the wonderful thing about John’s music – even without the film it has a life of its own.”


A moving account of an extraordinary artistic friendship

To mark Krzysztof Penderecki’s eighty-fifth birthday Deutsche Grammophon is releasing a double album showcasing a number of the composer’s works for violin and piano or violin and orchestra. All of them feature the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose name is closely associated with that of Penderecki.

The violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki are among the leading musical figures of our age. For more than thirty years these two outstanding musicians have been close friends, and during that time their friendship has proved a fruitful one, repeatedly inspiring and challenging both parties. To mark the composer’s eighty-fifth birthday Deutsche Grammophon is now releasing a very special double album featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter both as a soloist and in partnership with a number of colleagues. All the works that are included here reflect Penderecki’s unique musical language in fascinatingly intense and multifaceted ways. The result is a sensitive and moving homage on the part of the violinist to a musical friend whose Second Violin Sonata she has recorded for the first time.

Penderecki’s works have an existential depth to them that goes far beyond the sheer sensuousness of the musical world that they inhabit. Anne-Sophie Mutter compares their complex, multifaceted nature to the canvases of Pablo Picasso, so varied, extreme and contrastive are they. For the composer himself these works are the end result of a creative process that is both tireless and extremely demanding. As he himself puts it: “I like travelling uncharted pathways. I have to do this whenever I compose, otherwise nothing comes out. I start somewhere in the middle of a work, before moving to the right or left and time and again having to get back on course, which often means retracing my steps. I continue to compose until it becomes clear to me that I could really do it much better. I then start at the beginning.” Penderecki has retained this self-critical attitude right up to the present day. It is an attitude that places enormous demands on him. The works that have come into existence in this way afford impressive proof of his uncompromising dedication to music and provide thrilling evidence of his ability to explore the emotional extremes of human existence.

This double album brings together various pieces that Penderecki has written for the violin and that are performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter in ways that bring out their wealth of tone colours and captivating expressivity, while also striking a personal note. In addition to La Follia, a virtuoso set of variations for unaccompanied violin, and the dialogue-like concert duet for violin and double bass that Anne-Sophie Mutter has recorded with the bass player Roman Patkoló, it is two large-scale, complex works that are at the heart of the present release. Both reflect Penderecki’s multilayered and hugely expressive art of composition. Laid out along symphonic lines, the Second Violin Concerto – subtitled Metamorphosen – was premiered by Anne-Sophie Mutter in 1995: “For me this task is physically and psychologically challenging, but it is a challenge that I am grateful to accept,” says the violinist about the extremely demanding and contrastive work, in which Penderecki provides a virtuoso amalgam of the most varied styles. Like the Second Violin Concerto, the Second Violin Sonata is dedicated to Anne-Sophie Mutter, who has recorded it for the present album with the pianist Lambert Orkis. The piece is in five movements and resembles a dramatic disquisition on life that ultimately leaves the listener emotionally moved.

Penderecki and Mutter have been friends for many years. It is a friendship that has proved inspirational. They first got to know each other in the early 1980s, although it was not until 1988 that they began to work together closely. This was the year in which the then twenty-five-year-old violinist played Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto under Penderecki’s direction. From the outset the conductor was fascinated by her musical maturity. Their musical association has lasted until the present day. For Anne-Sophie Mutter, it is “far more than mere admiration that has bound me to Krzysztof Penderecki’s works for several decades. I am shaken to the very roots of my being by the depth of emotion that issues from them – almost more than I am by his genius as a composer.” With this double album, Hommage ŕ Penderecki, the violinist pays touching tribute to a truly exceptional composer and to their mutual friendship.


Anne-Sophie Mutter and Daniil Trifonov discuss their natural affinity as chamber music partners and the joys of recording Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet for Deutsche Grammophon.

Two stars from different generations, artists of the highest calibre, mark their first collaboration with an album devoted to one of the supreme landmarks of classical music. Anne-Sophie Mutter, who in 2016 celebrated the 40th anniversary of her professional debut, and Daniil Trifonov, now in his mid-twenties, joined forces with three outstanding young string playing alumni of the Mutter Foundation at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus in June to perform Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, popularly known as the “Trout” Quintet. They also explored the composer’s Notturno, a sublime late work for violin, cello and piano, and arrangements of his songs Ständchen and Ave Maria for violin and piano. The results were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon to create an album scheduled for international release on 3 November 2017.

Mutter and Trifonov were drawn together by a strong artistic attraction. “It was a spontaneous idea to work together,” the violinist recalls. “But I was stalking Daniil for several years,” she adds with a laugh. Mutter found time earlier this year to follow the Russian pianist’s Rachmaninov concerto cycle with the Munich Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev. “I was also in Moscow when he won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011 and heard him play in the prize winners’ concert there.”

Anne-Sophie Mutter’s long-established recital partnership with Lambert Orkis is set to continue, yet she notes how she has often performed chamber music with other pianists, Alexis Weissenberg, André Previn and Yefim Bronfman among them. The opportunity to make her first recording of the “Trout” Quintet with Daniil Trifonov, she says, was too good to miss; the pianist, likewise, embraced the project with wholehearted enthusiasm. He sees Schubert, one of the great Classical composers, as an inventor of the purest melodies and a master of formal structure.

“The sincerity of his musical expression captivates audiences and performers alike,” notes Trifonov. “When I first learned that Anne-Sophie wanted to record this music, I was incredibly happy. I’ve only recorded Schubert in Liszt’s transcriptions of his songs before, so it was a great joy to work on one of the composer’s greatest works with four fantastic colleagues. The more we played together, the more possibilities opened up. Something different happened every time and that always expands your awareness of what is possible. And then you become more comfortable with an interpretation which reveals itself in the moment.”

While Schubert’s output for violin and piano amounts to little more than a handful of pieces, his piano trios and the evergreen Piano Quintet include magnificent parts for violin. “The ‘Trout’ Quintet is one of the great pieces in the repertoire,” Anne-Sophie Mutter reflects. “Schubert, sadly, wrote very little for violin. The ‘Trout’ gave me the opportunity not only to work with Daniil but also to include wonderful colleagues, young artists who have gone through tutoring with my Foundation. It’s a piece that allows musical friends to work together.” The “Trout” team was completed by South Korean violist Hwayoon Lee, German cellist Maximilian Hornung and Slovakian double-bass player Roman Patkoló, all current or former scholarship students of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. “It’s inspiring to have many viewpoints, many cultural roots coming together in this collaboration,” comments Mutter. The five musicians soon found common cause as they developed their vision of Schubert’s Piano Quintet. Mutter compares the interpretative process to mountain climbing, where reaching the top of one peak reveals fresh perspectives on other, higher peaks yet to be conquered. The process of discovery, she adds, was both exciting and demanding. Differences of opinion over tempo changes within a movement and tempo relationships between movements of the “Trout” were resolved in rehearsal, allowing the players to unlock what Trifonov calls the composition’s “essence of energy”, the dramatic outbursts, sharp contrasts and bright sonorities that give the work its life. “Emotions don’t run in pale grey,” Mutter interjects before the pianist has finished his thought.

© Harald Hoffmann / DG

“I have always been quite disturbed that so many of our wonderful colleagues play the theme from the fourth movement as if the trout has been dead for several centuries,” she observes. “But if you read the text of the song from which Schubert takes his theme, the trout is as fast as an arrow! He doesn’t use the sequence where the trout is killed. No – the trout is there wiggling its tail and having a great time. When the ‘Trout’ theme returns, it’s an Allegretto, even faster than the original Andantino. There’s esprit and exuberant joy in this music. It’s one of Schubert’s sunniest pieces.”

Anne-Sophie Mutter pays tribute to Daniil Trifonov’s phenomenal range of tone colours and lightning-quick reactions to fresh musical thoughts. “Even after discussing everything in rehearsal, you come to different solutions in performance,” she observes. “But that only happens with musicians who are free to make music, not concerned with working from one recipe.” In addition to the “Trout”, their album contains Mischa Elman’s arrangement of Ständchen together with Ave Maria, more correctly known as Ellens Gesang III, arranged by August Wilhelmj in the 1880s and subsequently elaborated by Jascha Heifetz. Both performers made changes to their parts to create what Mutter describes as a “joint venture” in the art of arrangement. “I think there was also a little help from Liszt,” notes Trifonov, referring to the Hungarian composer-pianist’s influence on his handiwork.

“Of course, arrangements are arrangements,” comments Mutter. “But one sometimes has to rearrange them to bring out the original in a better way.” Schubert’s Notturno, she observes, bears witness to the composer’s quest for new sounds in the final years of his short life. The piece, perhaps conceived as the original slow movement of the Piano Trio No.1, achieves transcendent beauty in its marriage of simple violin and cello melodies with elaborate keyboard writing.