This is a lovely coupling of two major twentieth-century
concertos, to which is added the presumed reason for the disc, the world
premiere recording of Dutilleux's Sur le mê
me accord. It does seem strange, though, that DG should choose to
repackage two already well-known concerto recordings to fill out the
disc. I have already seen the disc advertised at full-price and at medium-price,
so shop around. Even if you already own the Bartók
and the Stravinsky, it is worth it for the nine-minute Dutilleux, a
real gem of a piece.
The Dutilleux actually had a long gestation, commissioned
when Mutter was a mere slip of a girl of sixteen. The commission came
as a result of Mutter's hearing the composer's Tout un monde lointain
for cello and orchestra (see my review).
The violin work is, as the title suggests, based on
one 'chord' - transformations of the six-notes heard at the start -
Forteian set-structural analysts would have a ball! But such technical
matters should not detract from the real emotional impact of this piece.
Mutter rather more simply describes the work as an 'aria' (the piece's
subtitle is 'Nocturne'). Indeed there is much lyrical writing that displays
Mutter's expressive warmth. Her tone at the top can be wonderfully sweet
or somewhat steely depending on context, and she can produce a magnificent
deep-throated sound; as at around 2'30. There is a legato basis to the
work that underpins even the more animated sections and completely justifies
the 'aria' description.
Revisiting the two concertos is like meeting old friends
again. In the case of the Bartók,
Mutter's tonal depth in the opening statements took me aback. She is
placed forward in the recording balance. At various points I questioned
whether she is too far forward. This placing, it might be argued,
gives one the chance to gawp all the more at her agility. At around
7'15, for example, Mutter is amazing in her velocity. Ozawa and his
band, however, need to be just that bit more on-the-ball with her syncopations.
It is Mutter's handling of the more ruminative moments that linger in
the memory, though ... not to mention the cadenza!
Another Nocturne comes in the shape of the second movement,
but here it is a slightly uneasy one. The scherzoid interruption is
magnificently light, the ending glorious.
extract Mutter and Ozawa follow the
twists and turns of the finale like a shadow, making clear in the process
the correspondences with the Scherzando of the second movement. The
close brings simply staggering playing from Mutter.
Finally, the Stravinsky. Last but certainly not least.
A long time ago I did a brief overview of recordings of this concerto
for The Gramophone, and it was this recording that emerged as
the 'winner'. Rehearing this recording that is now not too far off twenty
years old it still emerges as a superb statement.
extract Sacher and Mutter seem to
think as one, with the interaction of accents - so important in Stravinsky,
of course - absolutely spot-on. She can swing, too (3'05).
The lyric and the very interior side of Stravinsky
make up the middle two movements before the finale, that here positively
sparkles. A pity there seems to be a touch too much reverb on the recording
- around 1'30 this shows - which blunts the edge a little. It remains
a beautifully playful way to close, though.
Interesting couplings, then. Of course the more new
recordings we have of Mutter the better, so one cannot really encourage
back-catalogue regurgitation. But do hear the Dutilleux ... and if you
don't already own the two concertos, there really is no excuse not to
buy this magnificent testament to a major violinist's dedication to
the music of our time.