This SACD transfer of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s Beethoven violin sonatas, taken from a series of live recordings from 1998, does not transcend the questionable interpretations. In each of these famous sonatas, Mutter takes excessive liberties with respect to dynamics and phrasing, and while some listeners may appreciate the thought and care she puts into these readings, it sounds as if she is trying a bit too hard to be “musical”. For example, just before the exposition repeat of the “Spring” sonata, several instances of disproportionate agogic pauses, inconsistent use of vibrato, random adherences to sforzando markings, and a sporadic disregard for (or recasting of) dynamics combine to produce an overly fussy performance that lacks momentum and a sense of direction.
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was not only a great violinist, he was one of the great charmers in the history of music. It is almost impossible to find a report of anyone saying anything against him, despite the fact that he was a notorious "fibber." Part of the reason is that he never said anything against anyone else. And he exuded charm—the warm champagne charm of old Vienna, where he was born and whose music and style he lived and breathed and loved all his long life. He even composed his own Viennese operetta. He was a handsome man with a noble demeanor. He looked great on stage. And he could play the violin in a magical way. He freely admitted to not having the superlative technique of a Heifetz or a Milstein, and in fact he bragged about not practicing for months at a time. Yet he could pick up a cheap violin and make it sound like a Stradivarius. This sounds like puffery or legend, but it is attested by innumerable people who heard him, including most of his greatest rivals.
HISTORICAL RECORDINGS · MONO · RECORDED IN *1930 & 1934 NEW REMASTERING FROM ORIGINAL MASTERS IN 24-BIT / 96KHZ BY STUDIO ART ET SON, PARIS. “You simply have to hear Huberman’s recording,” wrote Gramophone of this incandescent 1934 interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. At the age of 14 Huberman, born in Poland in 1882, had dazzled Brahms with his playing. The prodigy went on to become both a towering violinist and a committed humanitarian activist, rescuing musicians from Nazi Germany to form the future Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Completing this newly remastered Beethoven disc, Huberman is partnered in the Kreutzer Sonata by another legendary Polish-born musician, Ignaz Friedman.
Mutter's Beethoven Concerto was recorded live at the final subscription concerts of Karl Masur's long tenure as the New York Philharmonic's music director, and the beautifully played orchestral part is a tribute to his leadership. Mutter plays with a silken tone and astonishing technical command of her instrument–absolute ease in the stratospheric tessitura of the solo part, and an amazing array of microdynamic adjustments that display the infinite variety of pianissimos at her command.