LPO/Bashmet/Mutter, Royal Festival Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the greatest violin players alive.

Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the greatest violin players alive. But performing as soloist in all Mozart's violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante over two consecutive days - three concerti per night - was always going to be demanding. Taking on the role of director as well (if the second concert was anything to go by) was over-ambitious.

The London Philharmonic, in appropriately reduced numbers, was her able band. But the set-up looked worrying; here was she, in trade-mark white strapless gown, standing amid (but over) her seated orchestra dressed all in black. She was colour-coded out of the crowd.

Directing usually means playing in tuttis, albeit as primus inter pares. But Mutter is not this kind of player; her normal stance - still, serene, eyes downcast - contrasted queasily with her head nodding, finger prodding, backward glancing, even "boogying" in an effort to be seen to direct.

Her bold first entrance of K218 in D said, "I'm the soloist," rather than, "I've come to make music with you." Not until the slow movement did her tone warm and vibrato widen, and she began to free-up, marvellously experimenting with colours.

What could be more lovely than her playing in that slow movement of No 3 in G major K207, or her terrific varying and contrasting of bow-strokes in its last movement? But the strain of holding it all together took its toll with an extraordinary memory lapse, Mutter briefly losing the map.

After the interval, the viola soloist Yuri Bashmet - joined Mutter in the Sinfonia Concertante K364. It might be hard to find two more different players - Mutter the perfectionist, Bashmet the improviser - yet there were times where they were well matched. In the slow movement, Mutter produced a tragic, bleached sound using fast bow and little hair. Bashmet countered sotto voce, playing well up the fingerboard. But there was a strange lack of connectedness between the soloists. The orchestra coped well, horns and oboes especially fine in K 364. But how to keep a semblance of ensemble? Only when Mutter let them get on with it did spirits really rise.