Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who made her mark as a teenage prodigy, is giving back through the foundation that bears her name. For the last couple years she has toured with the Mutter Virtuosi, a group of young musicians under her tutelage, and their North American tour included a stop at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday night, presented by Washington Performing Arts.
The program concluded with a guns-blazing performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” and in the hunting-themed finale of the “Autumn” concerto, the students played the part of the pack of dogs chasing down Mutter as their quarry. While the score dictates that Mutter be caught in that instance, the students did well most of the evening just to keep pace with their fleet-handed mentor. Still, for all of Mutter’s virtuosic exploits, it was odd that she left Vivaldi’s solo parts completely unembellished, and only veteran harpsichordist Knut Johannessen provided some baroque performance practice flair on the continuo part.
The relationship between Mutter and her proteges is inherently one-sided, a situation that may not foster the best results in chamber music. Sitting first violin in Mendelssohn’s string octet, Mutter drove the fast tempos to the breaking point, adding more bends and folksy idiosyncrasies here than in the Vivaldi. Only in the first piece on the program, Sebastian Currier’s quirky “Ringtone Variations,” did Mutter seem on even footing with her colleague Roman Patkolo on double-bass. The piece, a sublimation of the ringing and buzzing of mobile devices rather than an actual quotation of them, was not driven so much by virtuosic display, although there was plenty of that. Against all odds, the performers managed to find the music in the flat, repetitive sounds that are so much a part of daily life now.
Downey is a freelance writer.