Back To The Future | Barbican, London
Tuesday 02 May 2000
It takes some doing to hold a healthy-sized Barbican audience in virtual suspension, but whatever you thought of Anne-Sophie Mutter's Back to the Future weekend recitals, one thing was for sure: she had us all hooked.
Charismatic is not the word. On Saturday night, Krzysztof Penderecki sat transfixed while Mutter tackled the hefty Violin Sonata that he had recently composed for her. Two huge keyboard clusters - one near the beginning of the piece, the other near the end - sat on the page as solid blocks. They were not typical. Penderecki's perplexing formula married BartÃ³kian symmetry to a variety of chromaticism that even Bruckner would have found conducive. It is a huge, fervid, questioning piece that sets fin de siÃ¿cle angst in a reassuringly tonal context. I doubt that a dozen or more encounters would reveal all its secrets, though Mutter's performance suggested that the effort might be worthwhile.
Anomalous as it is, Penderecki's Second Sonata pesters the memory in a way that Respighi's B minor Sonata of 1917 does not. Franck, FaurÃ©, Brahms and Wagner were being recalled for service while contemporaries of Respighi prepared vastly stronger recipes elsewhere. Both Mutter and her superb pianist, Lambert Orkis, went at it hell for leather, though by then I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable at what has become a fairly persistent mannerism in Mutter's playing. The sound itself is strong and luminous, the pitch mostly dead-centre. The main problem, as I hear it, is a vibrato that is conspicuous either by its insistence or by its absence, with virtually no grades of shading in between the two extremes.
Friday's Respighi put this trend on the line, but Saturday's account of the Shostakovich Second Piano Trio, where Mutter and Orkis were joined by the gifted young Munich-born cellist Daniel MÃ¼ller-Schott, was stranger still. Arvo PÃ¤rt's Fratres had just ended among ethereal harmonics. In terms of sound, Shostakovich picks up where PÃ¤rt left off, though harmonics shift to the cello. The Trio's outer movements went swimmingly, but in the Largo, Mutter and MÃ¼ller-Schott engaged in a stunned, wailing duet that banished vibrato with an almost ritual consistency. These were ghostly hounds baying from a corpse-ridden battlefield, quite unlike the human exchanges we usually hear. I hated it, but it did at least make me think.
Friday's recital opened with a performance of Webern's Four Pieces where Mutter and Orkis were as much the masters of musical silences as of notes on the page. George Crumb's exploratory Four Nocturnes had Orkis leaning over the keys to pluck - or fiddle with - the piano strings, while Mutter's fiddle traced delicate arabesques above him. Neither player seemed especially in the mood for BartÃ³k's Second Sonata - the heat was on, but the arguments sounded oddly fragmented - and Mutter appeared to take no pleasure whatever in winding up Ravel's fiery Tzigane. Of course, her playing was technically fabulous, much as it was on the following night for Stravinsky's Suite on Themes, Fragments and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi. What a joy to write about someone who is individual enough to disagree with and bold enough in her repertory choices to have us contemplating the near past and wondering about the musical future.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 2 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 3 Germanwings plane crash: I have depression. That doesn't make me a psychopath
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, TV review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, episode 2, TV review: The affable Englishman routine is wearing a bit thin
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew