By Anna J. Park -The Korea Times
Often dubbed the “Queen of the Violin” for her perfectly balanced musicality of power, sensitivity, versatility and much more, German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished and prominent violinists in the world.
She made her public debut at the age of 13 at the Lucerne Festival in 1976, and performed in Salzburg with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan the next year. During her career that has spanned more than four decades, the 56-year-old virtuoso has so far earned four Grammy Awards and numerous other honors, including the International Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2008, and the Polar Music Prize in 2019.
Mutter is currently touring the world with Beethoven’s music in celebration of the 250-year anniversary of the German composer’s birth. She will perform three Beethoven sonatas, “Violin Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23,” “Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring” and “Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, Kreutzer” this Friday evening at the Seoul Arts Center.
In a phone interview with The Korea Times, Mutter said the reason she chose the three Beethoven sonatas for her performance in Seoul is that she’d like to highlight Beethoven’s musical journey and development, who totally changed the role of the violin.
“In the early 1800s, following Haydn and Mozart, the violin was still not a very soloist instrument, not an equal level with the piano. And in the Beethoven sonatas, Op. 23, and also in Op. 24 ‘Spring,’ and also obviously in Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer,’ the three pieces we are bringing to Seoul, Beethoven has realized the development of putting the violin on equal grounds with the piano. So I found it really important to bring to Korea these three sonatas which showcase this development. Because the ‘A Minor Op. 23,’ and then, particularly in ‘Spring,’ it is such a huge development from the opus 23, which is still a very baroque style with fugato elements and then in ‘Spring,’ he has really found a way of very intimate and very strongly connected conversation between the violin and the piano,” she explained.
“In the second half, we play the ‘Kreutze’ sonata, which is pretty much the violin and the piano concertos, a full-fledged virtuosic piece with variation movements; I mean, it is a full-size concerto. Just to showcase this development, (pianist) Lambert Orkis and I thought these three sonatas are an example of the huge journey that Beethoven has taken from as a Haydn scholar to becoming himself,” she added.
The violin virtuoso also talked about Beethoven’s great musical legacy, which carries a timeless message on the love of other human beings as an equal.
“Beethoven really is in music history, and also in the history of mankind, has an extraordinary space, because he is, for sure, the first composer and maybe the only one who has such humanistic goals, visions and messages, which of course culminates in his 9th symphony, with the ‘Ode to Joy,’ you know, this kind of celebration of manhood joining sister and brotherhood, that is something,” she said.
“And you know, Beethoven was a great fan of Napoleon, but then after the revolution, Napoleon was crowning himself to an emperor, and then of course Beethoven was disgusted by that. That’s also why he took away from the dedication of his ‘Eroica’ (‘heroic’) symphony. Beethoven was a democrat; he was very much for the people, from the people. He believed this idea after the French revolution, ‘fraternte and egalite,’ you know, (which is) brotherhood and equality, and the chance for everybody to become what is in your inner core,” she said.
“So Beethoven’s message is more than music, it is really a message more for manhood, and for mankind: always strive to see the other and accept the other as equal and equally important around you. This is very still very powerful and very important message,” stressed Mutter.
Besides music, what has kept her strongly grounded is that she is always striving to find a good balance between her private life and musical career. The mother of two young adults, who are living in different cities from her, Mutter said she still puts the relationship with her loved ones at the first priority.
“My profession is wonderful and I love music, and it is the purpose of my life, and I strongly believe music can better the world; but still, you know, my children are more important than anything else. I think human relationship is more important than any kind of professional endeavor,” Mutter stressed.
“So I’ve always tried to keep my private life, particularly my relationship with my children, a priority, which means that we are constantly calling, messaging and we always try to see each other and meet up in a month several times so that we stay close, although we are physically living in different cities. I found it is really, very important to have that kind of home for my emotions in my relationship with my children, because it is a wonderful present in life to have children. I can only recommend it for all of us women who want to have profession and children, go for it,” she added.