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Anne-Sophie Mutter: Carnegie Hall+ Artist to Watch

With her golden sound and nimbleness across the strings, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter has spent almost five decades merging classical virtuosity with a lively enthusiasm for showcasing new works—a winning combination she has brought to nearly 50 appearances at Carnegie Hall. This month, we spotlight this incredible artist, who appears in six programs on Carnegie Hall+, as well as in a recently added companion documentary that chronicles her relationship with the music of Felix Mendelssohn—all available for on-demand, premium viewing.

Eschewing a loaner instrument, Mutter famously plays on her own 1710 Stradivarius violin—said to have once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte—lavishing her trademark refinement on the masterworks of Mozart, Brahms, and Mendelssohn, many of which are also available on Carnegie Hall+. In The Mendelssohn Project, for instance, she joins Kurt Masur and the Gewandhaus Orchestra for a deluxe journey through the early-Romantic composer’s repertoire, slicing through his monumental Violin Concerto—but then scaling back for a shimmering account of the Piano Trio No. 1 and Violin Sonata in F Major alongside pianist André Previn and cellist Lynn Harrell. Complementing these 2009 performances is a short documentary, Encounters with Mendelssohn, in which Mutter reflects on her affinity for the composer and sheds light on her approach to his scores.

A prodigy from small-town Rheinfelden, West Germany, Mutter took up the piano at the age of five and switched to violin soon after. Her early training with Erna Honigberger—herself a pupil of the legendary violinist Carl Flesch—and Aida Stucki resulted in several national prizes, and she eventually caught the eye of conductor Herbert von Karajan, who would become a trusted mentor. At the age of 13, Mutter made her public debut at the Lucerne Festival, delivering a sparkling rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 alongside Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.

“He knew just how far he could push a young musician,” the violinist told an interviewer of Karajan in 2012. “He would always push you to the edge of what you could comprehend at that very moment—what you were physically able to bring to the performance.” It was a lesson that would serve her well as she navigated both the highlights of the classical repertoire and a career that was quickly making her one of the most sought-after virtuosos in the world. It is also a driving force that music lovers can still hear in her playing today—and that Carnegie Hall+ subscribers can experience in her dynamic rendition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at a 2008 Karajan Memorial Concert featuring the Berlin Philharmonic and another famous Karajan protégé, Seiji Ozawa.

Yo Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Daniel Barenboim all bow together.
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Mutter’s teenage years, spent in the company of the world’s elite conductors and orchestras, were a whirlwind of musical achievement. By her 17th birthday, she had played under Daniel Barenboim and Zubin Mehta, headlined alongside the New York Philharmonic, and recorded Mozart’s Third and Fifth violin concertos under Karajan’s baton. And when, still shy of her 18th birthday, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1981, she brought Mozart with her, joining The Philadelphia Orchestra and Riccardo Muti for a captivating performance of the composer’s Fifth Violin Concerto. Her rendition of that complex and challenging work can now be found on Carnegie Hall+ in a live recording from 2005 with Camerata Salzburg.

Since that debut, the violinist has returned to Carnegie Hall dozens of times, gracing the stage with a rich and varied assortment of works in orchestral, chamber, and solo configurations—presenting staples of the repertory, but also a vast array of unknown compositions. “New York audiences are so incredibly educated, and they seem to really enjoy it,” she told The New York Times of her proclivity for rising composers. To date, she has premiered numerous works composed especially for her, including nine pieces at Carnegie Hall by the likes of André Previn, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Sebastian Currier.

Mutter has also earned a reputation as a top-flight collaborator. “We are both passionate rehearsers,” she has said of her longtime association with American pianist Lambert Orkis, who appeared with her several times at the Hall. On Carnegie Hall+, the duo presents a ravishing program of Brahms’s complete violin sonatas.

“It’s like if you talk to your husband—you pretty much know where his thinking is going. But still, you would hope that a dialogue is always something which also is surprising and enriching. That’s what we have achieved over the years.” Since 1997, she has extended this joy of collaboration to a new generation, providing music scholarships to students around the world through the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation.

Across collaborators and musical styles, Mutter brings elegance and imagination to each performance, as well as a bravura technique that reveals the many facets of her artistry. As her work becomes available on Carnegie Hall+, channel subscribers can experience a musician whose playing offers a bridge to the great musical works of the past while boldly helping chart the future of the violin in the 21st century.

Photography: Mutter and Masur by Harald Hoffmann / DG, Jennifer Taylor

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