Anne-Sophie Mutter is here in San Francisco for the weekend and on Friday night she performed Sofia
second violin concerto,
. The piece, dedicated to Mutter, lasts for a slightly more than half an hour and has five sections played as a single movement. It's the final work of
presented during her two-week artist in residency gig with the SF Symphony and it made me wish I'd attended some of the other performances.
For those of you not familiar with her, Anne-Sophie Mutter is a simply a goddess. She's an incredibly talented violinist who just happens to look (and dress) like a screen siren from the golden age of Hollywood. She's had numerous works for the violin dedicated to her and tours world-wide performing them for audiences who might otherwise be reluctant to listen to the music of contemporary composers. At the same time, she is also a superb interpreter of the classical canon. Her performances of the Beethoven sonatas at Davies a few years ago is something I'll never forget. She also has a foundation to support young musicians and is an active philanthropist. Did I mention she's hot? Gorgeous.
Anyway, enough of my Mutter-blather.
Michael Tilson Thomas came out on stage and told the audience how excited he and the orchestra were to playing this particular piece and to have Anne-Sophie there with them. He then gave one of his little lectures and using a harpsichord, demonstrated the motives in the piece. Yes, the score includes a harpsichord and even though it was amplified it could hardly be heard, thankfully. I hate the sound produced by a harpsichord. Burn them all. Please.
Then Anne-Sophie came onstage in a gorgeous dress that made her look like a mermaid. Her hair is now shoulder-length (sigh). If she wasn't armed with a violin she'd look like a woman ready for the red carpet, not the concert stage.
She begins with the motives MTTpreviouslydemonstrated for us and them the orchestra comes in behind her. Some sections sound like a Bernard Hermann film score, others like cicadas on an August night in Alabama. There is one part that has three repeating dark notes that build and build like gunfire into a thrilling climax. She has the only violin onstage and can still be heard clearly even with the large orchestra going full-bore behind her. The score has some thunderous parts for brass and lots of great percussive moments. The moments where the snare drum lead with brisk rolls were particularly exciting. There's a cadenza 2/3 of the way through giving A-SM a couple of minutes to display the score's contradicting brawn and beauty. This was my first encounter with the piece and I would gladly hear it again. I've heard the one recording available, with A-SM and Gergiev conducting is very good. At the conclusion the audience gave a hearty standing ovation for both Gubaidulina and Mutter, who took three curtain calls.
After the intermission, MTT gave us two Ravel pieces, Valses nobles etssentimentalesand La Valse. Valses, a series of waltzes, is pleasant enough music and it was performed nicely, but it was a mistake to program such traditional and pedestrian pieces to follow up Gubaidulina's. In other words it was boring. The same can be said for La Valse, which is wonderful to hear at the ballet, but in a concert setting ultimately made me feel like I should have left at intermission- like the couple beside me did.
Did I mention how hot Anne-Sophie looked?