”Ask a classical musician why anyone should come hear them play. Or, if you’re a musician, ask yourself. Very likely, you won’t be able to say.
Often I hear, “Well, I’m playing great music.” But so is everyone else! Or else, “I’m really good.” (Usually put, especially in press releases, in fancier words.) But others, too, are good.
What’s distinctive about you? What can you offer that no one else can?”
Anne Sophie-Mutter answers these questions. Oh boy, does she answer them.
This is one of those albums that you can judge from the cover – this is Anne Sophie-Mutter sexying up one of the most well-known classical works of one of the least sexy classical genres by making it modern. By which, of course, I mean, increasing the volume and increasing the tempo because, you see, her recording of the same piece with Herbert von Karajan, available 1984, was too straight-arrow. Which should be fine, to be honest: growing up on modern sounds, that sounds appealing to me on paper, but what results is taking something that was the dated definition of vulgar (common) and turning it into the newer one (coarse).
Specific examples? You can hear it from the get-go on the first movement of “Spring” during the quick flurries of solos around 2-minutes in; each solo just drops you into a loud barrage – the phrasing is completely unnatural. Or, check out the first movement of “Winter,” where, in addition to more unnatural phrasing, we have breakneck speeds rendering Mutter’s violin into a scraping sound that takes center stage (ie. the harpsicord color (?) in the intro is practically invisible, as opposed to say, the second movement of “Autumn” here, or even Tartini’s “Sonata in G Minor,” which is probably the best thing about this package). When “Winter”‘s Allegro non molto bursts into the climax around the one-minute mark, because everything is so heavy, the movement lurches, despite being faster than how most people would’ve played it. The same issue of heaviness applies for the final movement of “Autumn.”
That said, the 1-star reviews on Amazon seem a tad hyperbolic; this may be badly imagined, but it’s still competently performed: I can’t fault the rest of the “Spring”, and the storm sections of “Summer” are predictably rousing given the emphasis on volume and speed. But at the same time, so too are the 5-star reviews: just because it’s unique, doesn’t mean it’s worthy of respect.
We don’t have to make the jump from “unique” to “good.”
Nor “listenable” to “good.”