Chemistry is one of the most mysterious aspects of the performing arts, especially when it comes to music. In athletics, the chemistry among teammates is almost always right before us. When Larry Bird made eyes-closed, over-the-head, backwards passes to Kevin McHale or Robert Parish, we had the benefit of watching slow-motion replays. And even before television, when the early 20th Century Chicago Cubs turned a double play, going from "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" (as a famous poem says), the North Side crowd in the stands could see that unspoken understanding among the three players at work before their eyes.
Musical chemistry, when right, is almost impossible to discern. Two musicians with an innate, natural understanding of interpretation and expression meld together seamlessly when that chemistry is at its best.
Such is the case with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis. To be clear, either one of these two raises the level of any collaboration to new heights. But when combined, their vision is as one, reaching a transcendence few other duos can match.
They first worked together in 1988, and to mark the occasion of a quarter-century of shared musical experiences, they've released The Silver Album.
Over the course of two discs, the duo treats us to sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and Fauré. A few of the lovely encores by Fritz Kreisler make for a sweet palette cleanser, including Schön Rosmarin, Caprice viennois, and Liebeslied. And a dose of spice kicks in with a few Hungarian Dances by Brahms.
Two recent works, both dedicated to Anne-Sophie Mutter, give the collection a variety only music of our time can provide. La Follia was written by Krzysztof Penderecki last year as the composer celebrated his 80th birthday (which included a visit to the Boston Symphony Orchestra). And André Previn's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, completed in 2011, received its first performance only six months ago.
According to Gavin Plumley at Sinfini Music, The double-disc survey opens with a punchy rendition of Beethoven’s Seventh Violin Sonata, in which the pair offers fiery counterpoint and lustre in more lyrical passages. It’s an approach that pays equally impressive dividends in Brahms’s Second Sonata and Hungarian Dances, as well as Penderecki and Previn’s new works for the duo. The solo La Follia, by the Polish composer, is full of Baroque flash and finesse, while Previn’s Second Violin Sonata bridges past and present with considerable panache. (WGBH)