Anne-Sophie Mutter / Lambert Orkis PROKOFIEV - CRUMB - WEBERN - RESPIGHI Recital 2000 (CD 23 / ASM35)

This is a live recording, made at a pair of concerts in May, and ‘live’ is undoubtedly the word for it. All the performances have an improvisatory quality, interpretative decisions seemingly made before your very ears. At the beginning of the Prokofiev it is as though Mutter and Orkis, realising that the audience in the Beethovensaal are already uncommonly silent and attentive, had decided after a quick glance at each other to begin the Sonata almost confidingly, with quiet tenderness and muted colour. Once or twice they take risks: the third and most epigrammatic of the Webern pieces is played with a mere thread of tone; in the hall it must have approached the limits of audibility. But this approach powerfully distils the intimate but intense emotions of these pieces; there is something close to pain in the second of them.
Once in a while the risks show. Not long after the opening of the Prokofiev there is an abrupt, stabbed accent that you suspect Mutter would have had second thoughts about in a studio recording, and an equally sudden expressive scoop in the slow movement – hauntingly poignant as she phrases and colours it – robs her intonation of its purity for a moment. There are similar but less hazardous extremes in the big gestures and expansive palette of the Respighi; fewer in George Crumb’s evocative, post-Bartokian Nocturnes, with their striking use of plucked, brushed or drummed piano strings. Throughout the recital Mutter’s playing is nervously intense, emotionally searching, and you are bound to refer this to the fact that she dedicates the disc to the memory of her husband, who died five years ago. It is vulnerable music-making, not always comfortable, but deeply expressive and often moving. The recording is spacious, the audience hushed.' (Gramophone)

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