One of the most charismatic and best-loved violinists of modern times, Germany's Anne-Sophie Mutter began her studies on the piano at the age of five. She shortly added violin lessons with Erna Hornigberger. In 1970 and again in 1974, she won first place in the Jugend Musiziert contest for young musicians. Herbert von Karajan heard her play at the age of 13 and paved the way for her international career. This began in 1977 with appearances at the Salzburg Festival and with her English debut under Daniel Barenboim. The next year, 1978, she made her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and released her first recording, of the Mozart Third and Fifth Concertos. In 1980, she debuted in America under Zubin Mehta, then made her first Carnegie Hall recital appearance in 1988. In spite of a difficult personal life (she lost her husband in 1995, leaving her with two small children to care for), Mutter has accelerated an already successful career to the level of super-stardom. She is currently one of the most sought after violinists and her recordings are always eagerly awaited best sellers.
Mutter is best known for her rich tone and her impassioned and exciting performances of the classic violin repertory, but she has also been instrumental in commissioning and performing new works for the violin. Among the composers she has worked with are Wolfgang Rihm, Sebastian Currier, Norbert Moret, Witold Lutoslawski, and Krzysztof Penderecki. Both before and, for a time, after Mutter's marriage to septuagenarian conductor André Previn in 2002, the pair performed and recorded together frequently. In September 2006, the couple quietly announced their divorce, and in October 2006 Mutter announced that she would be retiring from the concert stage on her 45th birthday in June 2008.