Music Reviews : Anne-Sophie Mutter in Violin Recital at Pavilion

An old-fashioned violin recital, the kind devoted to sonata performances in which the violinist plays from memory while the assisting pianist uses the score, and including an orchestral concerto accompaniment played on the piano, is no longer the norm in contemporary concert life.

But such an event materialized, on an otherwise enlightened local series, Friday night when the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter gave her first Los Angeles-area recital in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center. Mutter was assisted obediently by pianist Lambert Orkis.

Except for the youthfulness of the performers--Mutter noted her 25th birthday in June and Orkis looks not a lot older--the whole thing could have taken place 50 years ago, in the heyday of touring fiddlers like Heifetz, Elman and Milstein, when programs were formulas, concertos were kings and accompanists stayed in the shadows.

For a violinist who expresses a continuing interest in the music of her own century, Mutter on this occasion left her adventurousness at home in Europe. Her program listed sonatas--the expected, cynical choices--by Tartini, Beethoven and Franck, plus Ravel’s “Tzigane.” Two encores went no further afield; they were Schubert’s “The Bee” and the slow movement from Brahms’ D-minor Sonata.


The playing, from one of the major violinists of her generation and one who in the past three years has brought to her local orchestral appearances virtually definitive readings of concertos by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, emerged merely dutiful.

The most intense performance, that given Ravel showpiece, still fell short of incandescence. And Mutter’s way with Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” Sonata (in the Kreisler version), Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata or the ubiquitous Franck Sonata failed to reveal memorable individuality, sharp stylistic divisions or unforgettable passions.

Mutter displayed again her penchant for playing the violin as softly as seems humanly possible in many moments and using her dynamic range to astound her listeners. Her technical facility and lissome tone remain beyond reproach. But she did not uncover new facets of these familiar works or point out in an interpretive way why they are important. For the first time in the four seasons she has been appearing here, she approached her assignment in a pedestrian manner.

Contending with what sounded like a recalcitrant instrument, pianist Orkis often sounded monochromatic in style, though he rose to the climaxes in “Tzigane” boldly enough.

The four visually distracting microphones lined up in front of the two players were, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (sponsor of the “Mercedes-Benz Celebrity Series” of which this event was a part) assured us, for radio taping only, not for live amplification in the hall.