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Anne-sophie Mutter

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

Yesterday

The occult past life of my old violin

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discOur diarist Anthea Kreston has been mingling with the Mystic Megs. I have the amazingly good fortune to have been loaned a gorgeous Italian violin – a 1710 Testore. The four instruments in our quartet sing together – each a legendary work of art – and they sound together as one – the dark, burnished tones of old Italian masters are like magic under our fingers. While the other instruments in this quartet have a traceable history (some more complete than others), mine has, so far, defied any attempt to fill in a back story. The Viennese gentleman who loaned it to me has just one tantalizing snippet about my immediate predecessor- otherwise – basically 300 years of mystery surround this violin. I have read about Testore, the other master violin makers, and yet felt like I needed more. While being privy to nightly readings of Harry Potter this past year, I feel, with inflated chest, that I have become somewhat of an expert at witchcraft. I can, in fact, mutter several spells by memory (Expelliarmus, Lumos), and realized suddenly that what I needed to fill in the history of my violin was a visit to someone akin to Trelawney, the divination teacher at Hogwarts. Unable to find platform 9 and 3/4, I quickly, with the help of Yelp and Google, found about 20 people along the Spokane-C’oeur d’Alene corridor who might be able to shed some light on this mystery. I typed into the search box – “Tea Leaves Reader, Psychic, Fortune Teller, Tarot Cards and Medium”, and got to work calling and emailing this small but intriguingly named list of people. After a day of calls (I was interested to speak to both Candice, Kandass, and finally a Cayndyss), I decided to make two appointments, so as to be able to compile my findings. My request (I am looking for someone to do a reading on an old violin – can you Palm-Read an inanimate object?) threw many people for a loop (“no, honey, I can’t do that, but I can give you a love reading if you bring me a photo of your love interest”). One person on the phone even had a very strong “red” color flash in front of her as we spoke, gasping deeply, and offering me a package deal – palm reading, looking into my future, and a Celtic Tarot all for $100 cash. I decided to go with Elaine – I liked the sound of her voice – old and crackly, and people from the Rotary Club Halloween Picknick gave her rave reviews on Yelp. We set up a time (I was slightly unnerved when she couldn’t seem to remember her own address) and I drove to meet her at her home. I know what you are thinking, because I was thinking the same things – cloak, crystal ball, lots of purple and incense, having to push aside heavy drapery held back by thick golden cord. But, as I made my way from a sketchy Spokane neighborhood into a downright scary area bordering the railroad tracks, I realized that my mystical experience might be heart-pounding in a different kind of way. As I slowed to see the house, a one-story brick affair from the 70’s, I could see silhouettes of several people through the half-drawn Venetian blinds – one pacing with head bowed. Hmmm – maybe a whole house of wizards? Fantastic. I decided to circle the block, just to get a better sense of the neighborhood. Trailers and brown patchy lawns – and wait – a black cat just streaked across the road. This is a good sign. As I pulled behind Elaine’s house, I noticed around 10 rusty beat-up cars parked all over her lawn – perhaps she had a way with cars as well as cards? Each opening to the house – be it window or door – was heavily fortified against the world – this was one secure residence. I hesitated, again noticing that the house seemed to be quite full of people, but then I took a deep breath and thought, “I have come this far, let’s follow this through”. I grabbed my violin and walked confidently to the front door. It was open, save the black metal “screen” door. I leaned forward and said – “Elaine? This is Anthea here for my reading!”. The shadows I had seen from outside were now audible – but I couldn’t quite pick up the language which was being spoken. A shuffle of feet at a jingle of keys brought Elaine to to door – she tried about 4 keys, muttering about how a person couldn’t be too safe these days, you know the neighborhood, etc, before the door eerily creaked open. “Oh goodie”, I thought – a squeaky door! She was old, she was shriveled, and her hair was done up in a kind-of modified beehive. Wonderful. Nails long (how does an 90 year old manage with such long nails?), and a black and white stripped dress – shag carpet, and enough icons to start “Elaine’s Icon and Stolen Car Shoppe”. The men milling about in the adjacent room paid us no heed as we walked to the living room, a small white dog bouncing and snapping at us all the while. Elaine first asked me if I had a dog – hers was so fond of me – even jumping all over me and licking me as I tried to settle down into the white couch, covered in a thick clear plastic sheet. I decided not to mention my allergies and fear of dogs, hoping this was just a slight miss-step in Elaine’s initial reading of my aura. She asked me to take the money for the session, claps it between my hands, and to make two wishes. After this she took the money, and with a deft slight of hand, it disappeared into her bosom. What next transpired was a collection of observations such as: I would come into some money soon, people are proud of me, I would be buying something soon (she thought a car – maybe even from one of the gentlemen from the other room?), I have a star in my right palm – a long life! I gingerly removed the violin from the case so she (and her dog) could get a closer look. She immediately felt a power coming from the violin. It had the ability to bewitch the player – to put them under a spell and to take them away from family and friends. She told me that I had a very strong connection with this violin, but the danger was that it would entice me away from family – I had to find a balance. Then, she told me one of my wishes would come true soon and one would take a long time. I thanked her, and also thanked my lucky stars that my car was still there as I left the house, keys jangling behind me as I confidently, but quickly, got into my car. Interesting – and now onto Kandass. She was in quite a different area – newer houses on what was recently farmland – out in the country a tad. She came to the door – an attractive woman about my age, with heavy long eyelashes clumped with mascara and what seemed to be lips which were bold in proportion to the rest of her face. She explained that they had recently moved in – her husband ran the Harley Shop down the way. Again I was greeted by a dog – this time a large black scary looking dog who was equal to the previous canine in its desire to get to know me better, and quick. Again, strong pointing and firm talking to the animal produced no results, and we three settled down at the dining room table to chat. Kandass was pulling up a strong Grandmother presence – interesting to me since I never knew my maternal grandmother, and had only occasional and somewhat formal interactions with my paternal grandmother. After saying this, I realized that this meeting wasn’t a one-way situation. Kandass wasn’t having any of it and asked me to dig deeper – to find a wider definition of grandmother. Someone was trying to contact me from beyond. I worked with her, and together we came up with some creative possibilities. And here is where some magic really happened. I was floored when told, again, that not only would I be coming into some money, living a long life, buying a new car, but also that people were proud of me. And – after holding the violin – she told me she thought the violin was worth a lot of money – she was pulling up between $100-$200! And, that it was very likely that I, myself, would be playing a concert on this violin some day. I eagerly eyed the Native American drum lying on the table, secretly hoping she would suggest we just “play a bit and see where the spirit takes us”, but was disappointed when she jotted down some dates that she was pulling up that were important to the history of the violin – 1914, 1940, 1971. She urged me to look more deeply into the history of the violin – and demonstrated a position where I could slump or huddle over the violin, cradling it in my body, and that the violin would then feel comfortable speaking to me. She also thought that a man had probably played the violin before. So – that was exhausting. I am in the air, daughter asleep on my lap, as we head back to Berlin. I hope our car is ok – my house sitter just texted me saying that they couldn’t get it started and we would have to get it towed. I could have told her that already – I know a new car is in our future.

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

July 20

Label news: DG captures Bernstein winner

The yellow label today signed Kian Soltani, 25, winner of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival’s Leonard Bernstein Award. His debut album Home will include works by Schubert and Schumann, together with the world premiere recording of Reza Vali’s Seven Persian Folk Songs. Born in Bregenz to a family of Persian musicians, Soltani has toured internationally with the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and with Daniel Barenboim and the West-East Diwan orchestra. In March, he played the opening week of Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, returning two months later to give a concert of traditional Persian music with the Shiraz Ensemble.




Classical iconoclast

June 19

Schubert, Wanderer - Florian Boesch Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey : Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point  in the whole traverse. A well planned programme, of much loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish. Boesch and Martineau began at the peak, with Schubert's Der Wanderer D493, (1816 Schmidt von Lübeck).  "Ich komme vom Gebirge her".  A deceptively simple phrase, but delivered by Boesch with great authority, for this song is the quintessential symbol of the whole Romantic revolution.   The song is itself a journey.  The resolute beginning gives way to desolation, then to the short, lyrical rtst "Wo bist du, wo bist du, mein Geliebtes Land".  As Richard Stokes has written, the song "takes the form of a short cantata".  Boesch's flexibility allowed him to mark the transitions clearly without sacrificing the line.   In the last verse, his voice moved from firmness to despair, descending to ghostly whisper, so the last words rang out with anguished finality, connecting the last verse with the first. One of the most rewarding Der Wanderers I've ever heard, and I've heard hundreds.   With its regular, repetitive lines, Der Pilgerweise D 789 (1823). can sometimes sound undistinguished, but Boesch and Martineau brought out its depths.  The pilgrim is a beggar who struggles on though "Thread after thread is torn from the fabric of his happiness". So why carry on ? No mention of religious faith in this text, written by Schubert's raffish friend Franz von Schober.  Perhaps this pilgrim is the epitome of an artist, driven to create.  He's poor but has the gift of song. Boesch coloured the words with gentleness, suggesting quiet strength.   Rewarded be, those who hear the song so well interpreted. In  Der Wanderer an den Mond D870 (1826, Seidl), Martineau depicted the steady tramping pace in the piano part, over which the vocal lines floats  with carefree lyricism.  In some ways, this song is the opposite of Der Wanderer.  In the context of this programme, we were looking backwards before moving forward.  I had wondered why Boesch's body language had become quite jaunty towards the end of Der Wanderer an den Mond.  This fitted the upbeat mood, but was also proved a good introduction to An den Mond (D468 (1816,Hölty)  Provocatively, Boesch spoke a few words before starting. "What's this song about ? Who,is dead, the girl, or the man ?"  It's a curious poem, with an unidentified protagonist gazing down from the sky. Who is weeping on who's grave ?  A stimulating approach. There's no reason Lieder should be grim and stiff. Perhaps this was a song Schubert played in the company of friends, enjoying themselves for sheer pleasure.  Two more happy songs: Der Zufriedene D320 (!815, Reissig) and Der Weiberfreund D271 (1815, Abraham Cowley, translated Ratschky).  The first concise and pointed, the second second risqué.  From contemporary drawings, we can assume that Liederabend audiences were open minded.  Endless variety: the pious An Die Natur D372 (1815-6, Stolberg-Stolberg), with Bundeslied D258 (1815, Goethe0. Schubert treats this as drinking song, while Beethoven, setting the same text, makes connections to the drinking clubs of then time which fueled political action. Thus Boesch and Martineau ended the set with Lacheln und Weinen D777 (1823, Rückert).  Laughter and tears - the landscape of Lieder is vast and varied. Der Seig D805, (1824 Mayerhofer) is an anthem, but its brave front is disguised by references to classical antiquity.  The protagonist has slain the Sphinx. The song  resumes in repose ("O unbewölktes Leben !") but the way Boesch sang the critical linen "Und meine Hand - sie traf" haunted the peace with a sense of horror.  Two songs of Spring, Frühlingsglaube D686 (1820 Uhland) and Im Frühling with An den Schlaf D447 (1816, anon) and Abendstern D 806 (1824 Mayerhofer), beautifully articulated by Boesch and Martineau. This set of songs was balanced by the final set, with Prometheus D674 (1819 Goethe) and Grenzen der Menschheit D716 (1821 Goethe) , powerful songs which Boesch van sing with authority, all the more moving because his approach can evoke more sensitive feelings. Limitations of mankind, for men are human, not gods.  Thus the unforced elegance of Boesch's An den Mind D296 (1819, Goethe and the tenderness in then two "motherhood" songs, Grablied für die Mutter D616 (1818 anon) and Die Mutter Erde D788 (1823 Stolberg-Stolberg).  It's surprising that this song isn't done more often as it exemplifies many of the themes in this Wanderer journey.  The piano introduction is finely poised, suggesting slow footsteps "schwer und schwül".  In the moonlight, someone is being buried.  Diminuendos and a minor key, but the mood is "erhellt von sanfter Hoffnungn Schein"  Mother Earth holds us all.  Death ,does not triumph.   This concert was being recorded live. If it's released, this song will be one of the highlights.  Boesch and Martineau's encores were An den Mond D296 (Goethe) and Nachtviolen D752 (!824 Mayrhofer).



Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 4

Anne-Sophie Mutter marks 40 years on stage

The German violinist, 54 next month, celebrated an anniversary today at Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler, Cecilia Bartoli, Anne-Sophie Mutter. Photo: SF/Marco Borrelli Press release: “On 29 May 1977, this stage witnessed a Pentecostal miracle in music. Herbert von Karajan, to whom Salzburg owes so much, including this very theatre, invited the prodigy violinist to perform even before her 14th birthday. She came, played and conquered audience and reviewers. And thus it has remained ever since,” said Helga Rabl-Stadler. The Festival President thanked Mutter for this morning, which was not merely an “event”, but a musical highlight that was going to live on in the consciousness of all those present. She called Anne-Sophie Mutter a discoverer, enabling new interpretations of supposedly familiar pieces. Anne-Sophie Mutter also briefly addressed the audience, commemorating Herbert von Karajan, with whom she worked for 13 years until his death, recalling how he would often ask her to join him shortly before a concert, to keep polishing details of their interpretations. Cecilia Bartoli, whose birthday is today, was celebrated by the musicians and audience with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” before the audience again broke into rapturous applause. After Anne-Sophie Mutter’s anniversary concert, Cecilia Bartoli hosted a Charity Lunch at the Karl-Böhm-Saal. The award-winning chef Johanna Maier and her sons treated the guests to an early-summer menu created especially for the Festival. Net proceeds will be donated to the Salzburg Festival’s education programmes and the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation.

Classical music and opera by Classissima



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