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Sibelius: Violin Concerto,Op.47 / Serenades Nos. 1 & 2 / Humoresque

4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 13, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

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The very first notes of this extraordinary performance show how thoughtfully Anne-Sophie Mutter has approached the work. Sibelius's marking for the solo violin is dolce ed espressivo, which for most violinists would mean "with vibrato." But Mutter plays senza vibrato and achieves a hauntingly expressive effect over the muted pianissimo oscillations of the orchestral violins. Happily, she sustains this high level of engagement with the score through the entire account, playing the taxing solo part with riveting intensity, making every note count, producing a gloriously rich and varied tone, and giving the listener a memorable musical experience in the process. The effect of all this on André Previn and the Staatskapelle Dresden, to paraphrase Mark Twain, appears to have been prompt and electric. They give a spectacular reading of the score, one notable for both its sonorous depth and its sense of atmosphere. --Ted Libbey
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Product Details

  • Performer: Anne-Sophie Mutter
  • Orchestra: Staatskapelle Dresden
  • Conductor: André Previn
  • Composer: Jean Sibelius
  • Audio CD (February 13, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GRK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,079 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Being a musician myself, I am always trying to find that archetypal recording that you can excitedly recommend to your friends. This recording of the Sibelius Concerto surpasses that adventure. Whether it has been the dull and dry workings of Itzhak Perlman, the rushed and emotionless circus of Jascha Heifetz, or the silly and unprepared version of Sarah Chang's, neither have even come close to Anne's superb interpretation. The haunting opening of the first movement causes you to turn up the volume just to make sure that your ears can hear the tonal perfection of Anne-Sophie. The Staatskapelle is amazing with its sonorous orchestral interludes and awe-inspiring dynamics, especially in the quickest, most-exciting finale I have ever heard. The ending harmonic still rings in my ear. The second movement is emotionally riveting. It constantly builds up and drops from a climax until the final, tear-jerking explosion of sound. In the third movement, Anne's perfectly forged thirds, quadruple stops, and wrist-crippling jumping octaves are a force that has yet to be reckoned with. The Serenades and Humoreske are also a unique and great addition to this disk. The haunting melody under improvisation in one, the jokingly emotional turns in another and the haunting melody of another bring to a close one of my favorite discs of all time. I highly recommend this recording because I have tried the rest and they don't pass the test.
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Format: Audio CD
Mutter is a performer who has become one of the most fashionable, and original of violinists. She has the most sweet but intense tone that is suitable for Romantic works, and I was a little sceptical (though I am a huge fan) whether she could be convincing in the Sibelius. But I could not have been more wrong. It is one of the most impassioned acccounts I have ever heard. She plays her entry without vibrato, to startling effect. Very original, as I don't know of other performances which start this way. Gradually she uses full vibrato, and in her hands, every note means something. The second movement is simply gorgeous. It is very sweet-sounding at first, but one realises that she uses the darkest tone colour to create a very 'Nordic' atmosphere. In a word, gorgeous. The third movement is the most impressive. Throughout the performance, her use of rubato is used to amazing effect, but in the last movement, all hell breaks loose. She lets rip, without loss of control. Mutter sounds so gutsy and impassioned that I wondered if she had broken any strings during the recording. I'm sure she did. The Sereneades and Humoreske are wonderfully played, and although musically less subtantial than the concerto, the small pieces, the Humoreske especially sound happier than a lot of Sibelius' music. Wonderfully imaginative couplings. The playing of the Dresden Staatskapelle under Previn is first class. The placing of microphones over certain sections of the orchestra in several passages could have been different. For example, in the last movement, the 'wrong' instruments are given more prominence over the 'right' instruments (the brass are too prominent in some bits, where the strings should be the dominant players).Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The post-Karajan Mutter continues to impress me with her growing musical maturity, and her in-depth exploration of the Sibelius is yet another testament to her artistry. As with all of her recordings, her fabulous tone is evident throughout, as is a technique that is more than equal to the challenges of the composer. I would dispute the one reviewer who argues that she slows down in the more technically challenging passages; certainly one cannot make that claim in the 3rd movement, which is certainly as brisk in its tempi as any recording available on the market today, and in any case, Mutter has always had a tendency to try and draw everything she can out of each note. A particularly notorious example of this would be her youthful recording of the Beethoven concerto with Karajan, where slow tempi cause the whole piece to become absolutely bogged down to a level beyond redemption. One certainly cannot find anything of that sort in this recording of the Sibelius, which remains a coherent performance throughout.

So why only 4 stars? Well, first and foremost, Previn & the Dresden Staatskapelle really seems to be phoning in their performance at times, and with a concerto like this, such a defect can cause quite a bit of damage. This could be due to mike placement as much as anything, but whether it is the sound engineer or the performers themselves, the result is an ensemble that sounds at times disengaged and at others overwhelmed by the soloist.

Also, as another reviewer has observed, a 47-minute CD at full price (where a third of the music consists of nice but relatively inconsequential compositions), simply put, is a ripoff. Why not fill it out a little?
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Format: Audio CD
It seems that if I express a careful but negative review, I am likely to suffer indignant responses.
If you are a dedicated Mutter fan, or if you like this violin concerto to sound gloriously romantic, this review will not be of interest: there are plenty of affirmative positive reviews here for you.

I would hope that anyone who looks beyond Mutter's image and seeks the icy intensity and fiery bleakness of Sibelius would find my comments at least reasonable from that point of view.

I would stick to the positives first: This is a personal reading, and demonstrates Mutter's exceptional virtuosity. She intends to show from the start how bleak this wonderful masterpiece can sound,the violin entry sounding quieter, paler and more desolate than any other version on disc. She certainly brings out intensity at times, with dynamic changes almost overdoing the effect in places. The orchestral sound is good.

It is a worthwhile coupling with Sibelius' other well known violin pieces of lesser depth, played very nicely, if a little blandly - the humoresque sadly not quite pointed and witty enough to really make any statement. It is a great pity she didn't record all the humoresques for this disc, which is therefore a bit light on content.

I haven't really found this a musically satisfying performance though. I have no wish to string a load of invective and exaggeration which one of the reviewers has found necessary. But I really cannot find a feeling that the soloist has put this together as a complete whole - it has a feeling of being sections joined together.
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