Karajan, Mutter: Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto (APE)
Karajan, Mutter: Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto (APE)

Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 183 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Composed by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
with Anne-Sophie Mutter
Conducted by Herbert von Karajan

01. Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 – opening applause
02. Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 – 1. Allegro moderato
03. Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 – 2. Canzonetta (Andante)
04. Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 – 3. Finale (Allegro vivacissimo)
05. Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 – closing applause

Another December-May delight

Nestled amongst the five star raves there are some strange and sour reactions to this live recording, which I find baffling. On one hand, I can understand objections to DG’s patrician attitude to its clientele that assumes it will stump up for a mere 37 minutes of music in a format able to hold eighty, but for a performance as good as this and now available for virtually nothing plus P & P these days, that complaint has become irrelevant. Secondly, there is the phenomenon whereby listeners hear what they hope or expect to find: that in the year before his death, old and in pain, Karajan is a doddery old shadow of his former self. Apart from the fact that there are several phenomenal recordings from this last period in his life which give the lie to that assertion, your own ears will refute that and a comparison of timings will nix the moan that he is slow. It is true, however, that contrary to the constant accusations that Karajan was just a bloated musical ego on stilts, he very much plays second fiddle (excuse the whimsy) to his starry soloist, in no sense treating the concerto as a duel and judging his entrances and orchestral balances to a nicety in order to frame her prowess.

Mutter herself is extraordinary, in her freest, most expansive and almost reckless mode; what I find most rewarding about her playing is her willingness to adopt a myriad different voices and the infinite variety of her dynamics in her phrasing: sometimes, as in the opening to the Canzonetta, she adopts a husky, vibrato-free whisper of a sound to mimic the keening of a mother in mourning, then she will razz it up to produce a brilliant, rasping, hard-edged tone only then to coddle our ears in honeyed warmth a minute later – what an artist. I take her technical skills for granted but her double-stopping is a miracle and her intonation flawless, from the stratospheric top down to the cello-tones of her instrument. She turns this concerto into a real dialogue between the violin as Voice and the orchestra as interlocutor.

The audience certainly seemed to know what they were getting, even if some subsequent reviewers do not. I love Heifetz’s entirely different style as much as the next man but there must surely be room for a recording like this one, too.

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