Back To The Future | Barbican, London

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 Bartókian symmetry to a variety of chromaticism that even Bruckner would have found conducive. It is a huge, fervid, questioning piece that sets fin de siÿcle 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, Fauré, 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 Müller-Schott, was stranger still. Arvo Pärt's Fratres had just ended among ethereal harmonics. In terms of sound, Shostakovich picks up where Pärt left off, though harmonics shift to the cello. The Trio's outer movements went swimmingly, but in the Largo, Mutter and Müller-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 Bartók'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.

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf