A conversation with the "Queen of Violin" Anne-Sophie Mutter is so much more than talking about composers or music or string instruments, although those are her great loves, so, of course, that plays into it, too.
Mutter has been in the classic music biz for decades, discovered at the age of 13 by the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. Born in West Germany in 1963, she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival at the age of 14 and at 15 made her first recording of Mozart's Third and Fifth Violin Concertos with her mentor, von Karajan, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
She's coming to the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, Feb. 1 with a program that she says, will be gratifying to an audience on so many levels, whether they are lovers of a classical repertoire or just want to spend a lovely evening in the midst of great music in an equally great concert hall.
"There has been a lot of thought put into this program," she says in an interview, not that everything she does isn't without plenty of thought and has been a hallmark of her decades-long career.
"It checks a lot of boxes in music and so I hope the audience will enjoy the richness of what we are able to play," she says. She'll perform with her Mutter Virtuosi, an ensemble of string soloists that include current and former scholarship recipients of the Anne Sophie Mutter Foundation, which commissions works for the musicians to play on tour.
One of those pieces will be the second in the program is "Gran Candenza" by Unsuk Chin, a virtuoso for two violins commissioned by Mutter.
"It's an exciting piece of music - eight minutes in duration," she explains. "One of the reasons for the foundation -- for its existence, I think very much is - my mentoring the young generation. Unsuk Chin is one of today's most esteemed composers. This cadenza is extremely virtuosic -- eight minutes of total amazement," she says, admitting that it took her and her scholars months and months to learn the piece.
"It's very densely woven, like a very tightly knit conversation between the first and second fiddle."
Performing with her will be Ethiopian-Hungarian violinist Samuel Nebyu, one of the foundation scholars.
Each member of the Virtuosi has the opportunity to perform as a soloist, for example in Unsuk Chin's 'Gran Cadenza' for two violins, Mutter explains, so in Miami, it will be Nebyu, who she says is incredibly gifted.
He was suggested, she says, by her long-standing piano accompanist Lambert Orkis. "Lambert is really a presence in my life," and the two have appeared together for more than 25 years.
There are two Vivaldi pieces on the program, the Concerto for 4 violins in B minor, and the Mutter must (if you're a fan, you have to see her play her signature) "Four Seasons."
"The 'Four Seasons' is the boldest piece of Baroque music ever written and it's one of the milestones in music history," she says, adding that Vivaldi has staying power. "After hundreds and hundreds of years. I mean, Four Seasons was written in 1725 and it has such character and with its energy, with its poetry and with romanticism and some of its jazzy elements, it is as current and breathtakingly colorful as it was well, almost 400 years ago."
Still discovering music after all these years, Mutter says there was composer that "popped" on her radar during 2020.
Black French composer, violinist and composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, of which she and the Mutter Virtuosi will play his Concerto in A major, Op. 5 No. 2. Born on the French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe, he was the son of an enslaved woman of Senegalese origin and a French plantation owner. Educated in France, his father served as a personal assistant to King Louis XV.
"He is very much overlooked, because let's face it, sadly, the (classical) repertoire is mainly male and white, as if there have not been fantastic nonwhite composers and female composers. I'm very glad that we live in a world where diversity on the cultural planet has much bigger room. And I'm excited and grateful that we can play this outstanding concerto by a composer who, in his time, was really living amidst the best musicians of Europe. He apparently also used to play chamber music with Marie Antoinette. I can tell you, Michelle, when I'm playing this passage work by Joseph, it is virtuosic and it goes on forever," she says. "So there are many, many reasons why this man has to be taken very seriously, particularly in the violin repertoire."
She confides that she had contemplated taking fencing classes after learning of Bologne's prowess as a fencer.
"He was a great athlete as well as a fabulous musician," she says. Bologne did first come to fame not as a musician but as the best fencer in France.
But while Mutter wants her audiences to enjoy the music and bask in it, she believes that she has a duty. When asked the question as to why mentoring the next generation of musicians and audiences is so important to her, it's a question you know that she's thought about for much of her career.
"I think you bring music to people, we can all kind of connect through that moment of a live performance which is unrepeatable. And it's ours, to remember... something which will enrich our lives and make us, for a short moment, be more open minded towards each other. How many occasions do we have in life to share the greatness of powerful emotions? Post coronavirus, you know, there are not that many possibilities to dock on to other people's emotions.
And whether you like it or not, we all have a responsibility. I feel that the connection between different philosophical backgrounds, religions, different upbringings, different goals in life, when it comes to music... all the differences, which we seem to very often artificially build up, seem to fall off. It's just a great moment to feel alive, to feel very strong emotions and to be happy. Have a glass of whatever afterwards, talk to friends and linger in the moment of having experienced something unique."
(See a video of Anne-Sophie Mutter's performance at Carnegie Hall below.)
Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter Virtuosi perform Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. inside the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets are $50 to $170. Information at arshtcenter.org.