This must surely be among the boldest, sweetest, most sensual and most provocatively phrased accounts of Brahms’s Violin Concerto ever recorded. And I can tell you with some confidence, after having recently surveyed a whole host of ‘historic’ violinists playing the same work, that not one of them waives the rules with as much nerve as Anne-Sophie Mutter does here.
Judging simply by timings, Mintz and Sinopoli seem to have decided on a middle path in their approach to the first movement of this concerto: they take nearly a minute less over it than Mutter and Karajan (also on DG), about a minute and a half more than Perlman and Giulini on EMI. Using ears rather than a stopwatch, however, they seem to be giving by far the slowest performance of the movement that I have heard in years. It is a reading from which anything which might savour of soloistic display has been expunged, in which no note, even one of a flourish of semiquavers, is allowed to be 'merely' decorative. Mutter is fond of polishing every note like a jewel, too, but the very opening of the concerto in hers and Karajan's reading sounds positively sprightly set beside the newcomer. The moment Mutter enters the speed slackens markedly, but Karajan watchfully assures that the pulse returns with each tutti, and a sense of momentum is present throughout, even during the soloist's most wayward rhapsodizings.
From 1976, when Herbert von Karajan – already a legend – met the prodigiously gifted 13-year-old Anne-Sophie Mutter until his death 13 years later, she was the only violinist to appear with him in concert and on disc. This 5-CD set contains all the concertos they recorded together for Deutsche Grammophon. It includes the concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch and Brahms; but now, for the first time, there is also the Tchaikovsky Concerto, as well as the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Mark Zeltser and Yo-Yo Ma, and the Brahms Double Concerto with Antonio Meneses.