Riccardo Muti Conductor
Anne-Sophie Mutter Violin
Anniversary Concert – Anne-Sophie Mutter – Berliner Philharmoniker: 40 Years of Artistic Partnership
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Violin Concerto in D major op. 35
Anne-Sophie Mutter Violin
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Symphonie Nr. 4 in F minor op. 36
Sat, 27 May 2017, 19:00
Philharmonie | Introduction: 18:00
For Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Berlin Philharmonie is something like her second living room: “So many wonderful things happened there, all the recordings, the concerts, the incomparable ensemble […]. There have been many attempts to copy the hall – the Disney Hall in Los Angeles was inspired by the Philharmonie – but the original with its unique acoustics is simply in Berlin. The hall is inseparably linked with the orchestra, and will always remain my benchmark wherever I play.” Of course, one Philharmonic date has especially remained in the memory of the violinist from Wehr in the Black Forest: 11 December 1976, when Herbert von Karajan first invited Ms Mutter, at the time a girl of 13 years of age, to audition: “Mr von Karajan had said beforehand that I shouldn’t be surprised if he interrupted me and didn’t want to hear the whole 20 minutes. But I was allowed to play to the end of the piece – not a bad sign at all. […] I was all ready to return home when in the concert hall I literally ran into Mr von Karajan’s arms. He said, as if it was no big deal at all, that he would be delighted if we could perform together in the coming year at the Salzburg Festival at Whitsuntide.” A thunderbolt that was followed by a phenomenal career: “That day will always remain an absolutely extraordinary event in my life.”
Just one year after her performance at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Anne-Sophie Mutter debuted in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall with Mozart’s Violin Concerto G major K. 216 conducted by Karajan. At the latest after recording the Mozart concertos Nos. 3 and 5 with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Karajan, she established herself as the leading violinist of her generation, with a supreme mastery of the virtuoso concert and filigree chamber repertoire for her instrument, performing it repeatedly for enthusiastic audiences in all the important musical centres of Europe, the US and Asia. It is now the 40th anniversary of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. What will be played at the jubilee concert conducted by Riccardo Muti has not yet been decided. Only that the violinist is looking forward to this special event, where she will once again be accompanied by her “standard-setting” orchestra, with the utmost anticipation: “To experience that resounding sound again, that sound that carries you forward so powerfully – yet at the same time every member has the subtlety of a soloist. Simply everything that one could wish for is there.”
About the music
(Sentiment + Intellect) x Pathos² = Tchaikovsky?
Observations on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
“Until recently it was normal for us to call Tchaikovsky a sentimental intellectual whose music had no relevance for our generation.” That was written by Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first “People’s Commissar of Enlightenment” of the young Soviet Republic, in 1925. “His ‘hysterical pessimism’ and ‘petit bourgeois melancholy’ were condemned as completely incompatible with the aims of the Revolution,” according to the musicologist Alexander Poznansky. Nevertheless, at that time these reservations only applied to Tchaikovsky the musician, not the man; in September 2013 Spiegel Online reported that the Russian film fund would only give its support to a film biography of Tchaikovsky “in the amount of 30 million roubles (approximately 670,000 euros) ... if details about the artist’s private life were omitted”, meaning the composer’s homosexuality.
Composition as an Act of Sublimation?
Early symptoms of depressive tendencies, which were to become progressively worse throughout his life, were already apparent in 1868, during his work on the First Symphony. But Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality, which he had to conceal due to social conventions, was largely responsible for these “mental tempests and nervous disorders”, as his biographer Herbert Weinstock noted in 1943. No less significant, however, was the constant self-doubt against which Tchaikovsky had to struggle with every new work. Hypochondria and misanthropy balanced each other out; Tchaikovsky’s biography and the origins of his works read like the parallel psychological profile of a constant fluctuation between the creative urge and the despondency of someone who is up one minute and down the next. Viewed from the perspective of depth psychology, we are dealing with a classic case of sublimation, as Sigmund Freud described it in 1908 in his essay Cultural Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness. The origins of the Violin Concerto and the Fourth Symphony, in particular, illustrate how inseparably linked Tchaikovsky’s life and work were.
“To my best friend”: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, op. 36
In July 1877 the composer had attempted to escape from his homosexuality into a “respectable”, in other words, heterosexual relationship, but his utterly rash and hasty marriage to a student proved to be a disaster. Tchaikovsky separated from his wife after only a few weeks and entered a phase of deep depression. A short time later he began work on the F minor Symphony, “in which my memories of the passionateness and misery of my feelings and experiences found their echo”. The “content” of the work is explained even more clearly in a letter from the composer to his friend and patroness Nadezhda von Meck, to whom he had dedicated the symphony, coded for outsiders: à mon meilleur ami (“to my best friend”). Between “the fateful force that prevents our striving for happiness from succeeding” – the fanfare theme in the Andante sostenuto introduction of the first movement, which is heard again in the Finale as a cyclical formal element – and the recognition that one must “get out among the people; if you cannot find reasons for happiness in yourself, look at others”, Tchaikovsky develops a detailed psychological profile in almost bar-by-bar analogy with the music.
The Fourth reflects another dilemma Tchaikovsky found himself in, beyond psychology: his role in Russian music between Westernization and national autonomy. The mere fact of his closeness to the Moscow circle of the brothers Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein caused the St Petersburg colleagues of “The Five”, known in Russia as “The Mighty Handful”, who represented the nationalist school of Russian music, to regard Tchaikovsky as Sápadnik, as a “Westerner”, who continued the great tradition of the role models Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in the core genres of instrumental music, while paying tribute to Wagnerism in his operas. But how is this consistent with the fact that the string pizzicatos in the third movement of the Fourth Symphony unmistakably imitate the sound of a balalaika and the main theme of the Finale quotes the ancient folk song “Vo pole berëza stojala” (In the field a little birch tree stood)? “To the people!” the composer wrote in his programme. “See what a good time they have, surrendering themselves completely to joyous feelings.” The bourgeois artist who goes “to the people” is embarrassingly reminiscent of Faust’s Easter walk: “Hark! Sounds of village joy arise; / Here is the people’s paradise, / Contented, great and small shout joyfully: / Here I am Man, here dare it to be!” It is no wonder that the early Soviet reception regarded Tchaikovsky as a “class element completely alien to the proletarian consciousness” (Alexander Poznansky).
The Fruit of “Pure Enjoyment”: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35
After the complete mental breakdown which Tchaikovsky suffered following the failure of his marriage (and which culminated in an unsuccessful suicide attempt), the composer left Russia in October 1877 and fled first to Switzerland, then to Italy. In Clarens, on Lake Geneva, he had a visit from a former student in March 1878, the 22-year-old violinist Iosif Kotek, to whom he felt passionately attracted, as we learn from a letter: “He tenderly ridiculed my expressions of affection and kept repeating that my love ... is selfish and impure, while his love is selfless and pure. We spoke of the piece he ordered me to write for his Lenten concert. He repeated over and over that he would get angry if I didn’t write this piece” – the Valse-Scherzo op. 34 for violin and orchestra, which Tchaikovsky in fact composed for Kotek and dedicated to him. Thus, it is not surprising that he felt intense jealousy when he learned that Kotek was obviously also having an affair with a woman. “My love for a person known to you has ignited with new and unheard-of strength! The reason for this is jealousy. He has tied himself to [the singer] Eibozhenka, and they *** [here the original contains a word eliminated by the editors of the letter and described as ‘obscene’] five and six times a day,” Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest in May 1877.
Now Kotek had come to Clarens, and one must assume that Tchaikovsky’s passion was aroused again – and was reflected in the Violin Concerto, which he composed between 13 March and 11 April 1878. “In such a phase of spiritual life composition completely loses the character of work; it is pure enjoyment,” he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 22 March. Up one minute – down the next! When Kotek hesitated to play the solo part at the planned premiere in St Petersburg, the relationship between the two quickly cooled. Tchaikovsky and Kotek saw each other for the last time in November 1884 in Davos, where the violinist sought a cure for his lung disease in a sanatorium – to no avail: Iosif Kotek died on 4 January 1885, at the age of only 29.
In his letters Tchaikovsky frequently spoke of his fear of people, his mistrust, his “shyness which has become a mania” and his despair at “not showing myself as I am”. The fact that “out of an inner, insurmountable compulsion” he confided everything to his music which he had to deny in his life is a tragedy to which Romantic music owes some of its greatest works.
Riccardo Muti initially studied piano in his home town of Naples, then composition and conducting at the Conservatory “Giuseppe Verdi” Milan with Bruno Bettinelli and Antonio Votto. In 1967 he won the “Guido Cantelli” international conducting competition. The following year he was appointed principal conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino where he remained until 1980. Other positions took him to London as chief conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, and to the USA as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980 – 1992). From 1986, Riccardo Muti was music director of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan for nearly two decades and since the autumn of 2010, he has been music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At la Scala, Muti conducted a wide repertoire from Gluck to Mozartʼs Da Ponte operas to Wagnerʼs Ring; nevertheless, he is considered a particular specialist in the operas of Verdi. The maestro conducts both opera productions at renowned opera houses and the top orchestras in the world; in particular, he has been closely associated with the Vienna Philharmonic for the past 47 years. After being invited by Herbert von Karajan for the first time in 1971, Riccardo Muti has also been a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival for over 40 years. Since 1972, he has returned on a regular basis to the Berliner Philharmoniker. In 2004, he founded the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra whose music director he is still today. Since 2015, he devotes even more to the training of young musicians with the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy in Ravenna. In addition, the artist is involved in the project Le vie dellʼAmicizia (The Paths of Friendship), initiated by the Ravenna Festival, conducting peace concerts including those in Sarajevo, Beirut, Damascus and most recently in Redipuglia.
To name but a few of the many awards bestowed on the conductor, he has been named Cavaliere di Gran Croce della Republica Italiana, he is a recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, a member of the Légion dʼHonneur of the French Republic, an honorary member of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle, the Johann-Strauß-Gesellschaft and the Vienna Philharmonic. The Salzburg Mozarteum awarded Riccardo Muti their silver medal for his contribution to Mozartʼs works. In 2012, he was named Knight of the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Benedict XVI.
Anne-Sophie Mutter has been one of the great violin virtuosos of our time for four decades. This year marks the 40th anniversary of her debut as soloist – at the age of 13 –at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival under the baton of Herbert von Karajan on 28 May 1977. Since then, she has performed all over the world as a concert soloist with the leading international orchestras and as a chamber musician.
Born in Rheinfelden in Baden, she received her first violin lessons when she was five. She later studied at the conservatory in Winterthur under Aida Stucki. A particular interest of Anne-Sophie Mutter is contemporary violin music: she has premiered 24 works so far, by composers including Sebastian Currier, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sir André Previn and Wolfgang Rihm. In 1978, Anne-Sophie Mutter performed for the first time in Berlin with the Philharmonic, playing the Violin Concerto in G major, K. 216 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted by Karajan. She was the soloist in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Philharmoniker and Karajan at the opening concert of the Chamber Music Hall on 28 October 1987. Her most recent performance with the orchestra in Berlin was at New Year’s Eve 2015 with works by Camille Saint-Saëns and Maurice Ravel, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
The violinist also supports medical and social projects through regular benefit concerts. In 2008, the artist set up the “Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation” with the aim of supporting highly talented young musicians worldwide. She regularly shares the stage with “Mutter’s Virtuosi”, an ensemble of the foundation’s scholarship students. Anne-Sophie Mutter has received many prestigious awards for her musical activities and her commitment to cultural and social issues, including the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize and the Leipzig Mendelssohn Award. In January 2015, she was named an honorary fellow at Oxford University’s Keble College. She received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Bavarian Order of Merit, the Austrian Grand Decoration of Honour, the French “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” as well as numerous other honours.