At first, the docu-bio of violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter airing tonightat 8 on Bravo seems quite routine. A moment's reflection on similar efforts telecast in the last few years, however, suggests how extraordinary the program is in its directness and its focus on music.
Produced this year for the British "South Bank Show," it wisely lets the 28-year-old musician do most of the talking. There are obligatory encomiums from her teacher, Aida Stucki, and from Herbert von Karajan and Colin Davis, and more pertinent scenes with her in rehearsal and discussing a piece with Swiss composer Norbert Moret.
But mostly it is just Mutter, talking and playing. She says at one point that she would never sacrifice her personal life for music, and the show is quite reticent there, although there are intimations of wealth and privilege in the casual mention of a formative trip to Basel to hear David Oistrakh when she was 6, as well as talk about her second Stradivarius.
Mutter is at a loss to explain her own rapid development on the instrument, in which she was not pushed by her parents.
Still, if the origins and nature of prodigy talent cannot be analyzed, they can be shown, and there is a startling clip of 9-year-old Anne-Sophie digging with apparently already characteristic intensity into Kreisler's "Tambourin Chinois." (It may comfort other fiddlers to know that she worked hard, with lessons five days a week in her early years).
As with most such biographies, the numerous musical clips do not include a complete movement. But there are enough varied snippets of performances to give some idea of Mutter's musical personality.
* "South Bank Show: Anne-Sophie Mutter" will be shown on Bravo tonight at 8.