Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mutter’s and Weissenberg’s Brahms Sonatas mix individuality with beautiful tone, close, exceptionally lifelike recorded sound, and temperament supported by technique.
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s recordings of Brahms’s Violin Sonatas, now reissued under EMI’s “Encore” label, first appeared on LP (Angel DSB-3937) in 1983, when Mutter was about twenty years old (the two discs also included a performance of Franck’s Sonata). Leslie Gerber greeted them enthusiastically in Fanfare 7:2, noting the inherent fascination of a collaboration of these two personalities. Their blending, he speculated, had produced what he took to be “reserved results” (although he admired their cleanliness) in the First Sonata, while in the Second, the
artists played with “sweep and power,” and, in the Third, even more. He even identified the set as his top choice. In 11:5, John D. Wiser reviewed its appearance (without Franck) on CD (EMI Angel CDC 7 49299-2—it was reissued in 1997 on EMI’s Red Line, 7243 5 72093 2 8)—mentioning the duo’s preference for tempos faster than usual and the “clean, close, well-balanced sound.” He judged Mutter’s sound rather small, but well focused within the context of her “unobtrusive” playing.
In the last 20 years, Mutter’s changed a great deal. What Wiser thought of (though I wouldn’t) as the overapplication of a “tight vibrato” in the Third Sonata’s First Movement might be welcome in the long white stretches she’s created lately (as in the Beethoven Sonatas, recently released on DVD, Deutsche Grammophon 073 014-9, which I reviewed in 26:3). And her tempos in Beethoven’s Sonatas have slowed from her vigorous takes on this music almost to the point of caricature. That’s not to say that something of her youthful care and élan haven’t remained. But anyone who seeks a showcase of the Romantic literature should find it here. And her tone strikes me as large, if not opulent, in these sonatas, so nobody need fear that whatever her musical ideas (and she had plenty of large-scale ones, as well as a refreshing penchant for detail), she might have been afraid to project them. In fact, returning to these performances makes me wonder whether her sound and style might have once promised more individuality than she’s subsequently developed, veering off instead, as I believe she has, into mannerism. (I still recall how excited I became upon hearing her debut recording with Karajan, of Mozart’s Third Concerto—on LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2531 049, still available on Deutsche Grammophon 429 814-2, as well in Deutsche Grammophon’s Originals series——that, too, was big with promise.) Mutter’s and Weissenberg’s Brahms Sonatas mix individuality with beautiful tone, close, exceptionally lifelike recorded sound, and, as both Gerber and Wiser suggested, temperament supported by technique. Still, therefore, recommended, and not just for auld lang syne.
– Robert Maxham, Fanfare [5-6/2003] Read less
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