Mark Gresham | 3 FEB 2023
On Thursday evening, in celebration of its 20th Anniversary, the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts presented a concert by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and her Mutter Virtuosi to a packed house in Emerson Hall. Day-long rainy weather did not discourage attendance.
Established in the spring of 2011, the Mutter Virtuosi is an ensemble of current and former scholarship holders of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation and selected other young musicians performing under the violinist’s artistic leadership. The Schwartz Center performance was their three-nation tour to Iceland, the United States, and Canada.
The concert opened with Mutter sharing the solo stage with three of her young Virtuosi, violinists Nancy Zhou, Mihahil Ovrutsky, and Anna Szymczewska, in a performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B minor, Op. 3 No. 10, one of a collection of a dozen concertos known as L’estro armonico (“The harmonic inspiration”).
Next, Mutter again shared the spotlight with another of the Virtuosi, violinist Samuel Nebyu, in the Gran Cadenza for two violins by Unsuk Chin (진은숙), a South Korean composer based in Berlin, Germany.
Even though a self-contained, written-out work, the six-minute Gran Cadenza, commissioned by Mutter, reflects elements of free traditional musical forms such as cadenza, capriccio, and fantasia. The virtuosic skills exhibited by the two soloists implied competition and cooperation, dispute and reconciliation between them through interactions expressing conflict, dialogue, contrast, and fusion, and in transitions between them.
The last time Atlanta audiences were treated to the Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5 No. 2 by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, was in 2021 as part of a mid-pandemic streamed video concert by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor Jerry Hou, with violinist Augustin Hadelich as the soloist.
In this concert, that amiable concerto, meant to show off the composer’s own skills as a violinist, closed the program’s first half with Mutter taking the spotlighted solo part.
The program’s second half was devoted to a perennial favorite, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Op. 8. Atlanta Audiences had just heard it back in early January at both Symphony Hall and Spivey Hall, with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Coucheron as the soloist, simultaneously leading his fellow members of the ASO.
Here Mutter did the same with her Virtuosi. In this case, the ensemble was less sharply focused in its sound than the ASO was in their performance last month. But then, the latter does have the advantage of deep experience as musicians who earn their daily bread as part of a unified, professional body of players playing together on an ongoing day-to-day basis.
That said, the looser performance by Mutter’s Virtuosi came with its own merits of musical vitality that were clearly appreciated by the enthusiastic audience at the Schwartz Center.
After several rounds of applause, Mutter and her Virtuosi played two encores. First came “The Long Goodbye” by John Williams and Johnny Mercer, a song from the eponymous 1973 Robert Altman film, which was in considerable contrast to the printed program’s body of repertoire. Following more plaudits from the audience, they reprised the opening movement to “Winter” from The Four Seasons. ■
- Anne-Sophie Mutter: anne-sophie-mutter.de/en
- Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation: anne-sophie-mutter.de/en/page/anne-sophie-mutter-foundation
- Schwartz Center for Performing Arts: schwartz.emory.edu