A classical musician is a bit like Sisyphus, the mythical character who was condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a mountain, only to start over again when it rolled back down. At least, that’s an analogy offered by the world-renowned violinist Anna-Sophie Mutter.
“A score like the Schubert (I’m playing on this recital tour) is so complex, you cannot possibly get all the details in a given evening,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s a little bit like Sisyphus. You have to try every time to show some different area of significance, but you can never grasp it all at once.”
So, for each performance, she is symbolically pushing the boulder up the hillside via a slightly different route?
“Yes,” she said with a laugh. “One would think that there would be a route that does not go uphill. But with great pieces like Schubert, no.”
Along with pianist Lambert Orkis, Mutter will scale four peaks of various heights Tuesday night, when she performs in recital at the Granada Theatre. Besides Schubert’s sublime Fantasie in C Major, they will perform sonatas by Mozart and Saint-Saens, plus the Partita by Witold Lutoslawksi.
Mutter has been dazzling audiences since she made her debut at the Lucerne Festival at age 13. She gradually transformed herself from prodigy to a mature, versatile artist who has championed the work of many contemporary composers.
Relaxed and self-effacing in conversation—she insists that one of the most important qualities a musician can possess is a deep humility—she will celebrate two milestones this coming year. In June, she turns 50. In December, she will celebrate the 25th anniversary of her ongoing collaboration with pianist Orkis.
“We have the same musical goals, although our backgrounds are very different,” she said. “Lambert has played masses of severe contemporary music, for a much longer period than I have. He also has great expertise and skill in original instruments, and an incredible amount of knowledge of music of the 18th and 19th centuries. He plays lots of repertoire I’m not familiar with.
“We meet up once a year, or once every 18 months and brainstorm through new programs. It’s wonderful to see that once we start playing together, we breathe together. There is only so much you can discuss and agree upon verbally. At the end of the day, what really counts is that you sense each other.
“As Mendelssohn said, ‘Chamber music is a conversation between sophisticated friends.’ That’s really, really true. You have to listen carefully to each other. You know the subject you’re talking about, but the conversation goes in different directions during the course of an evening. You need a partner who is willing and able to follow you, musically and technically.”
It’s good to have a trusted partner on your way up the mountain.
Tickets to the CAMA-sponsored event on Tuesday, March 5 can be purchased by calling 899-2222, or by visiting granadasb.org.