Violinist  Anne - Sophie  Mutter
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Famous throughout the world for her performances and recordings, Anne-Sophie Mutter has graced the Chicago area for concertos and recitals both downtown during the season and in the summer at the Ravinia Festival.  More details about the artist can be found in the box at the bottom of this webpage.

mutter She was back in Chicago in May of 1989 for the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony conducted by Sir Georg Solti.  I attended the first half of the program and then rode back with her in the limo to her hotel for this conversation.

Portions of this conversation were aired on WNIB, Classical 97, and now the entire chat has been transcribed for presentation on this webpage.  As usual, names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.

A few days prior, when setting up the meeting, I told her it might be tricky since I worked evenings and overnights at the radio station, and slept during the day . . . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    Thank you very much for taking the trouble to meet with me on a busy day.

Ann-Sophie Mutter:    No, I’m happy that it’s at least worked out with your nightlife.  [Laughs]

BD:    That’s right, with both of our crazy schedules.  Well, let’s start right there.  Do you keep an absolutely rigid routine every day that you concretize, or every day that you even just practice?

A-SM:    No, no.  No day is like the other, and no two are like any others.  Before coming to United States I did a really monstrous German tour.  I did 32 concerts in 35 days, and I played every evening two concertos.  I played Lutoslawski
’s Chain 2, and Bruch, so you imagine that really every day was quite different.  I did them on the night, and then we had to travel in the day, and so on.  I’m not a person who is getting up at the same hour and practicing two hours a day.  I take each day like it comes, and I’m only practicing when I have the urge to practice.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  Do you have enough urge to practice?

A-SM:    I don’t know.  I hope so.  [Both laugh]

BD:    Well, how much is enough practice?

A-SM:    For me, practicing exists on two levels.  One is just the purely mechanical training, purely preparing fingerings, preparing the technical stuff of a concert.  The other level is working after you have achieved more or less a complete control over the technique of the work. 

BD:    Is that where the real music enters into it?

A-SM:    Yes, exactly!  That’s the level I’m constantly working on.  That’s the level you can work on in an airplane, in a car, or just sitting somewhere, so it’s hard to tell if you are practicing just from ten o
’clock to twelve, or if you’re practicing continuously.  It’s more that you are living with the piece.  Once you get to know it, once you have played it several times — many times — you just live with it and it develops because you think about it and you memorize it.  It’s always is with you.  It’s like a companion.

BD:    It’s just simmering in your mind all the time?

A-SM:    Yes.

BD:    Do you learn one piece when you’re actually performing another piece?

A-SM:    No, never.  That I never do.  I don’t feel comfortable with preparing one piece in the morning and playing another one in the evening.  No, I don’t like that.  Also, in preparing something, if I have to prepare five or six different works within one month, I always work one day one piece, but never several pieces in a day.  I think it’s better for the memorizing process, also.  It’s easier that way.

mutter BD:    How do you divide your career between concerts and recitals and chamber music?

A-SM:    That usually is happening more or less by accident, because chamber music is something which is very difficult to schedule.  If you make trios, or quartets, or recitals, you always have to have the partners you want in the period you are free, or when you have them reserved.  So mostly it doesn’t work out as I really would like to have it, but I would say it’s about 80 percent orchestra and the rest is recital.  It was a lot of trio in the past, and it will be much more recital later.  Before the trio I also had a period in which I worked only recital.  Usually I restrict myself to one or two forms of chamber music.

BD:    Does the chamber music have a special fascination for you?

A-SM:    Yes, absolutely special.  It’s fascinating because it’s the most direct way.  It’s the most satisfying way for me when I do chamber music.  I think for all of us it’s the most intimate way of playing music because you are absolutely free to phrase and to get an answer, to respond to what is offered to you every evening.  It’s the most alive form of making music.

BD:    Is there any way of bringing any of this aliveness or intimacy into the orchestral repertoire and the concerto repertoire?

A-SM:    Because of my chamber music work I have changed my attitude towards, for example, works like Mozart’s Violin Concerti, which I now see in a more chamber music-like way.  But in the end there might only be two or three phrasings in a concerto that come out of a chamber music experience because your attitude is so different onstage once you are a soloist, and vice versa.  The moment I started playing trio I must have been a horrible partner [laughs] because my two partners always were shouting at me, and telling me that I just played for myself and I was much too loud.  So you have to change your personality whatever you do if you’re on stage.  As a soloist you have to sometimes fight against an orchestra, or you have to fight with them, but it’s a different kind of approach, a different kind of playing violin.

BD:    Would the same instrument that you use for concertos also be ideal for chamber music?

A-SM:    Yes.  One should be capable of changing the sound himself and of the instrument.

BD:    Do you change the sound of your instrument for your approach if you’re playing the same concert in different cities, in front of different orchestras?

A-SM:    Usually the acoustic influences your way of playing.  If you like it or not, you can’t ignore the fact that some acoustics are carrying you over the first row and others don’t.  So you automatically try to adjust your playing a little bit.  But otherwise in general the changes you make are more because of a different orchestra.  It’s also in tempi you make changes.  For example, if I play in Boston the last movement is much quicker than it would be in any other city because they have the technical ability.  Just the face of the orchestra is showing off more of a brilliance than Vienna Philharmonic.  With Vienna Philharmonic, I would make the second movement much slower than with another orchestra because they have the capacity of really bringing a phrase through without breaking it down.

BD:    So then it’s partly the soloist’s responsibility to show off the orchestra as well as the soloist?

A-SM:    In my opinion, yes.

BD:    Are you pleased with the orchestras that you play in front of all the time, or are there some that you would rather not go back to... and you don’t need to name specific names...

A-SM:    [Laughs]  Yes, there are.  During one year there are some orchestras, one or two, where I would absolutely not want to go back, or some conductors I just didn’t feel very connected to.  It’s not a question of if the conductor really understands what he’s doing, nor a question of his musical capacity.  Sometimes you just do not connect with a musical mind, and then it’s not very satisfying to work.

BD:    I assume, though, that most of your engagements are joyous occasions?

A-SM:    Oh, yes.  Sure.

BD:    Are you still learning from all of the conductors?

A-SM:    Yes.  I’ll learn certainly forever from them.  Over the last twelve years I’ve played this Beethoven Concerto, and before I did the recording I studied it two years with Maestro von Karajan.  It’s one of the works I have studied the longest and most intensely, and I’ve played it the most of my repertory.  With every one of the conductors I’ve worked it, I discovered something or I added something to it.  In the end I don’t think that it’s only one musician or one influence; not even myself is the strongest, but it’s experience.  It’s the life experience I have had in the last twelve years which is melting together.


BD:    Are you expecting in every concert now that you will put all of that twelve years’ experience into each performance?

A-SM:    Unfortunately it’s not very easy or even possible to have an absolute stable level, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing.  You can eat the same thing you had yesterday; you can sleep the same amount of hours; you can do absolutely the same thing, but you always will be a different person on stage every evening.  My feeling, my emotion, is different when I go onstage, and automatically the sound will be slightly different, and the conductor has a large influence.  So it depends very much what I’m focusing on this very day in the music I’m playing.

BD:    Are you able to focus on the specifics that are in front of the orchestra, and then forget about some of the other conductors that you’ve had in the past?

A-SM:    Beethoven is a very interesting experience because still the face of Karajan is very strong in every sense of the way in this piece.  But usually what you have learned out of experience, what you’ve learned out of hundreds of concerts, has lost his contour.  It just is one of the mixtures from which to choose.  It’s like a soup where you always add more spices or different spices, but it’s not that you can really tell who did what.  It’s you yourself who infiltrated what is coming out then, later.

BD:    So when you work with Maestro Solti, you don’t necessarily bring something from Maestro Karajan, and in a way get those two conductors together through you?

A-SM:    Absolutely.  Sure, yes that works.  That works very well, and at the end I am very certain idea about what I want to do.  What I take is certainly something which suits my tastes and thinking about the composition.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    For the violin there’s this huge repertoire available to you.  How do you decide which concertos you will perform in a given season?

A-SM:    Usually whenever I make a debut or play one of the first concerts in a city, I play Beethoven or Brahms.  Beethoven or Brahms is very easy because I already did these works, especially Beethoven Concerto.  Until now I always played my whole repertoire throughout the whole year.  During this tour I will play Stravinsky and Brahms and Beethoven and Bruch and Lutosławski, but there are also some negative aspects in this planning because it really takes a lot of concentration, a lot of strength, if you have always jump around from one period to the other, from one style to another, from one kind of playing, backward and forward.  So probably in the future I will limit myself a little bit during one season to a certain amount of concerts.

BD:    Are there some concerti that you are looking forward to playing again that you have not played for a while?

A-SM:    I’m continuously playing all my repertoire.  [Laughs]  I may look forward to something I don’t want to play in the near future, again...

BD:    [Laughs]  That’s the other side of the coin?

A-SM:    Yes.  [More laughter]

BD:    Are there some that you are going to drop from your repertoire?

A-SM:    Yes, especially romantic.  In my life I always needed a little time to clean them up.  So I just leave them for three or four months, and then it comes out fresh.  But some romantic works are not like a Mozart concerto which you always can play, and which always is a pure piece of music.


BD:    What is it about Mozart that is so special?

A-SM:    He’s a controversial composer because he’s very pure, very simple, but also very complex.  Something which always fascinates me in his violin concerti is the fact that wherever you have a harmless little theme, there always is, very deep down, human depth and tragedy.  It has many surfaces, any Mozart composition.  That’s why it never gets boring.  That’s why it always is amazing to work on.

BD:    Do you try to project all of these surfaces and all of these depths when you play, or just whatever one you are aiming at that particular time?

A-SM:    Henry Moore once said about the process of creating a statue that he just takes a block of granite or marble or whatever, and he takes away what distracts him.  In an interpretation, I think what you have to do is first of all make up your mind what you want to emphasize in a movement and decide what is important, also taking into account the orchestra.  Then you have to discuss it with the conductor, but it always is a melding.  It’s not that you try to over-interpret something, but it’s melding out of a period of your life where you think that particular aspect of the composition is important.  It’s like putting light on a painting.  You can look at a painting a hundred times, but it is only interesting looking at it a hundred times because you see it from different points of view.  You put different lighting on it.  At one time you think that aspect is important, and you go in that particular direction.  You have some influence from other musicians or out of what you have been reading about the composer, but usually one has a pretty fixed idea during your life about the style in which you want to stay.

BD:    You’ve made many recordings so far.  Do you play the same in the recording studio as you do in the concert hall?

A-SM:    That’s a good question.  I have already asked myself that question.  [Laughs]  After I have recorded some romantic things, like Symphonie Espagnole and now Tchaikovsky, I really would like to do these or a Paganini concerto or really technical stuff live because it needs the live atmosphere.  Once you get with a difficult piece into a studio, you think too much, and everybody gets a little tense.  The orchestra gets tense and you just play it safe, and these pieces don’t need that.  They don’t like it.  So I’m very happy that we have done the Tchaikovsky as a live recording because I really think it was necessary to do it that way.  Otherwise I tried, and I always try, to take it as a performance
which usually works out, but with things like Symphonie Espagnole you definitely need a live recording.  Otherwise it gets a little too dull.

BD:    So when you’re in the recording studio you try for too much perfection?

A-SM:    Sometimes yes, especially if you have a technically difficult piece in front of you.  Then you just are so focused on the perfection, and less on just playing and just taking a risk.

mutter BD:    So music should be taking risks?

A-SM:    No, it’s not a question of risks.  That’s why I’m limiting it to things like Symphonie Espagnole or a Paganini Concerto.  I’m limiting it to pieces where you are showing off your technique, where practically the only purpose is emotion and technique.  Once you get too much focused on that, you have one session or two sessions, and then you to finish.  You have to play perfectly and cleanly, and you lose the attachment, the musical attachment, the emotional attachment.  That’s why I prefer to do that kind of repertoire in front of an audience.  It’s not dangerous for other things, but for flashy performances it’s definitely better to do it in public.

BD:    Do you ever feel your competing against your own recording when you stand up in front on an audience?

A-SM:    No, never, because the recording always is only out of the moment.  It’s like a picture you have taken on the 29th of February five years ago.  You are a different person later and so is the orchestra you’re playing with.  You are in continuous movement, and music is something alive.  It’s something which you always recreate.  It’s never the same.

BD:    Does the public really understand that concept?

A-SM:    I don’t know, and I don’t care.  [Laughs]

BD:    Then what do you expect of the public that comes to your concerts?

A-SM:    That’s a good question.  What makes musical life in Europe interesting, and growing in interest is that there are many young people coming to the concerts.  Also, in Europe we are more and more able to put contemporary works into program, which still here in United States is a little difficult.  Usually you don’t get enough rehearsals, and the public just doesn’t like it.  So it’s not scheduled, which I think is a big mistake, because if you are not putting it into the program then they will never get used to it.  With my performance or any other performance
it doesn’t make any difference; they might be even happier with performances other than with mine — but what I hope is that outside of this evening from eight to ten, they are also interested in music and trying to educate their ears, and not staying only with things they know for the last 50 years.  I expect from public only that they really love music, and that they seriously go into a concert.

BD:    In a single concert or a series of concerts, where is the balance between this educational process and the idea of just enjoying great pieces of music?

A-SM:    I would say it’s in the middle.  You have to be very careful with programming a contemporary piece.  The reason why I did this huge German tour was the Lutosławski Chain 2, but I also did Bruch because I did not want to frighten people with a composer they might not know and a piece which was strange to them.  But because of the combination, probably 80 percent came because of the Bruch, but I’m sure that this 80 percent also will come the next time for Lutosławski.  Once they’ve heard it, they find it’s such a genius piece that they will come.  It’s really our responsibility to make a program which is in a good balance between education and really enjoying what they already know.  Also, for a musician it’s very interesting to combine contemporary music with romantic stuff.  If you would only play contemporary, you lose the connection to letting yourself fall into music, and if you only play romantic and classic repertoire, you get a little carré [square] in your head.  You’re not developing anymore in your brain.  What I have learned from Lutosławski concerning coloring is so much, and also intellectually what I learned because of studying his ideas is so much that I can also use in the repertoire I already know.  It would have really been a big loss if I wouldn’t have done it.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You mentioned genius in music.  What is it that makes a particular work have this greatness?  What is the spark that is there?

A-SM:    About Mozart’s compositions it’s just the multiple structure of the work.  In the same moment it’s not the structure you are looking at or the structure you are listening to, but once you play it or you sit in the audience it’s the pure expression of what music has to be.  But without a very intellectual structure, it gets very boring and does not have real depth.

BD:    Have you commissioned any pieces yet?

mutter A-SM:    No, I never dared to commission, because I thought it’s like commissioning a pair of shoes.  You can’t commission that.  Without my pushing, Lutoslawski has dedicated a work to me.  Also Norbert Moret and Penderecki are working on violin concertos which will hopefully be finished by the end of next year.

BD:    Will you have input into some of these works while they’re being written?

A-SM:    I suppose that maybe Penderecki will ask me.  But he’s such a great composer that he doesn’t need my ideas.  [Laughs]

BD:    Will you then be obligated to play his music when it is finished?

A-SM:    I don’t feel obligated.  I’m very much looking forward to it, but actually I was planning to use it for my festival next year in London.  Then I remembered that Penderecki is well-known for delivering the last three or four pages one hour before the performance starts, and I am not the kind of performer who will do that.  I don’t like that, so it’s not scheduled.  [Laughs]

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  You don’t want to sight read a concert???

A-SM:    No!  [Laughs]  I’ll probably take half a year off to study the work.  But I don’t want to take the risk.

BD:    You might take half a year off to study a piece?

A-SM:    [Laughs]  That sounds good and it’s always my dream, but it never comes true.

BD:    How do you know when the piece is ready to perform?

A-SM:    I never know that. [Laughs]

BD:    You get it into your fingers and you get into the music, but you’ve got to present it sometime.

A-SM:    Yes.  It’s a wonder that artists are capable of thinking they really have brought a piece, or they have shaped a piece in a way they really thought it’s right in going on stage.  That depends very much on the piece.  If it’s chamber music, if it’s a large piece like the Beethoven Concerto, if it’s only a bit of romance, it depends on the piece very much.  But the ideal still is one year.  While touring or just doing other concerts during that period, I would go back to it every second or third month.  That’s really the ideal procedure and is something I always want to stick to.

BD:    How are audiences different from city to city, and country to country?

A-SM:    They are even different in the same city.  The audiences I had here in Chicago were very different on the three evenings.  What fascinates me is the fact that in some countries you are able to really express yourself in live music.  That means more freely using contemporary music.  That’s something I’m very sensitive in noticing, but otherwise it always depends how well a concert is done.  If the concert is good, the public is pretty alike everywhere.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    I want to ask you a bit about your instrument.  Which instrument are you playing now consistently?

A-SM:    This one, is a Strad from 1710, and I have had it for six years.  I am continuously playing on it.  I have another Strad from 1703 which I got about five years ago, but very quickly — I would say after three years
I had the feeling that in my mind I already projected another sound, and I couldn’t get that out of the violin.  So I had to change.  But with this one it’s definitely the opposite.  There are many things I have not yet opened up.

BD:    So there are things in the violin waiting for you to bring them out?

A-SM:    Yes.  Every violin has a distinct personality.

BD:    Really?  How so?

A-SM:    It is a result of 250 years’ life, 250 years with different violinists who have their way of playing on an instrument and leaving a part of them inside of the instrument.  Part of it is also the fact that Stradivari himself made every instrument unique.

BD:    Is it the wood and the soaking of the wood, or is it the glue, or what?

A-SM:    [Laughs]  I don’t know.  Don’t ask me.  I think it’s the result of these many years.  There are many very good modern instruments now, but they are not ripe yet.  They are not mature.  They need to live, also.

BD:    So an instrument made now might be ready in 100 or 150 years?

A-SM:    It might be much better.  It certainly will be.  If it’s a well-made instrument then it will be much better with playing, with good playing.

BD:    Will we still be hearing the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto 100 or 150 years from now.

A-SM:    The Beethoven for sure, yes. 

mutter BD:    You’re optimistic, then, about the whole future of music?

A-SM:    Very optimistic, yes, especially because we have composers like Lutosławski who are using the roots of Bach and Beethoven and the romantics to create a new language.  They are not going away from what we have done for 200 years.  They’re just further developing it.  That’s why I’m very, very positively thinking also about the repertoire of the past.

BD:    Do you have any advice for composers who want to write concerti for violin?

A-SM:    [Matter-of-factly]  No.  [Laughs]

BD:    None at all?

A-SM:    No.  [Laughs again]

BD:    I assume you want them to continue writing it, though?

A-SM:    It depends who is composing.  I’m not very fond of experimental music.

BD:    You don’t want to bang the violin, or wave it around, or scrape on its side?

A-SM:    No.  I don’t think want to do any of that.

BD:    How far can music expand and still be music?

A-SM:    There certainly does not exist a general verdict of that.  If you take painters
which I know a little bitwhat is interesting to watch is if you take, for example, a small Rembrandt or a Rubens, and you see how much art and how much concentration is in one inch of a painting.  When you look at what is happening in music and in contemporary painting, it’s amazing.  They need two miles to express something strong, but in Mozart’s time, one phrase was stronger than what is composed now for twenty minutes in the experimental kind of composing.

BD:    So we’ve lost the concentration?

A-SM:    Yes.

BD:    Or have we lost the ability to understand?

A-SM:    I think we have lost concentration.  It’s a period now where we are extremely free, where there is no limitation in taste.  We are just try out new things, and of course there is a lot of garbage coming out of this experimental phase.

BD:    But are some things shining through?

A-SM:    Lutosławski is shining through.  He’s a genius, an absolute genius; and Dutilleux.  Probably Dutilleux would be the only one from whom I would commission a work.

BD:    Maybe he’ll write something for you!

A-SM:    I would love to it.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    What advice do you have for younger violinists coming up?

A-SM:    The most important thing for a musician
if it’s a violinist or whatever, it doesn’t make any difference — I noticed during my short period of teaching in London that my colleagues are much too focused on the position they want to achieve.  They want to be soloist and this they are not getting there.  They are too focused and they hate music.  The most important thing is to understand that whatever you do in music, whatever level you reach, you are only part of this corps.  If you sit in the second violin section or you stand there in front, it’s only a part.  It’s only one voice in a whole structure, and the most important thing is that you have respect and love for music; that you have enough discipline of trying to reach the highest level possible in your gift you have from God.

mutter BD:    Let me ask the big philosophical question.  What is the purpose of music in society?

A-SM:    For me music has a cleansing and a renewal.  It probably makes each of us to be a better human being for a period
probably for the short period he’s listening to it.  It involves him in something which is much higher than we are.  That’s the purposealways showing us that there is something much, much bigger than we are, and we always should try to reach up.

BD:    That’s a wonderful way to look at it.  [At this point I asked my guest to read a station break
Hello, this is Anne-Sophie Mutter and you are listening to WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicagoand before doing it she cleared her throat and jokingly sang Mi-Mi-Mi.]  [Returning to the interview]  When we were riding back here in the car from Orchestra Hall, you said that vocalists have all the perks.  Is that really true?

A-SM:    [Laughs]  I think the last prima donnas are definitely the sopranos, the coloratura sopranos.  But they have all the difficulties in life which we don’t have as instrumentalists.

BD:    Are you glad you’re a violinist?

A-SM:    Yes.  I always wanted to be a violinist.  It has been twenty years that I’m working on that dream.  I never was thinking about any other instrument, about singing, or anything else but violin.

BD:    Would you be happy playing in the second violin section in a good orchestra, or do you have to be soloist?

A-SM:    I never was thinking about it.  I always played what my teachers gave to me.

BD:    Do you like the life of a wandering minstrel?

A-SM:    [Laughs]  One thing is sure, that 100 concerts in a year are definitely too much over a longer of period, because you get a little too one-sided and you’re only focusing on music.  You don’t get enough out of life to really have a strong projection as musician.  It’s absolutely necessary to have a private life, to have other interests, to also develop your brain a little bit in another direction.  Otherwise you become a complete professional idiot.

BD:    Thank you for being a violinist.  You’ve brought so much and yet you’re so very young...

A-SM:    [Laughs]  I don’t feel young!

BD:    Really???

A-SM:    Not at the end of my tour.  [Laughs]  [I then asked her about some future engagements and she mentioned a few details.]  Next year it’s another recital with a lot of different interesting things in my program, and the year after I do a pure Brahms program, which is one of my favorite programs.

BD:    Does a one-composer program really hold up, even if it’s Brahms?

A-SM:    I think in Brahms’ case it does.  It does musically make sense, because all three works are very different, and played together it rounds the picture.  It’s not like the ten of Beethoven sonatas where the last four or five are really very much alike.  I think a strict Beethoven program would be too one-sided, but in Brahms’ case, it is very sensible.

BD:    When you come and give a solo recital with piano, would it be better to have, say, a singer or some other instrument just to balance the program, or is it good to simply have an all-violin recital?

A-SM:    That’s an interesting idea.  Wow!  I’m speechless.  [Laughs]  I must think about this opportunity!

BD:    Whatever you bring, we look forward to you coming back to Chicago.  Thank you for spending the time this evening.

A-SM:    My pleasure.  Thank you.


To read my Interview with Mstislav Rostropovich, click HERE.

Anne-Sophie Mutter - Biography from the Deutsche Grammophon website, May, 2015.  (Text only - photos from other sources.)

Anne-Sophie Mutter is universally considered to be one of the greatest violinists of modern times. Her artistry embraces everything from tonal richness and consummate technical virtuosity to transcendent expression and profound musicianship. Born in the German border town of Rheinfelden, she showed signs of exceptional talent at an early age. Anne-Sophie began to study piano at the age of five; soon after, she received her first violin lessons from Erna Honigberger, a pupil of Carl Flesch. At the age of nine she commenced studies with Aïda Stucki, one of Switzerland’s finest musicians and an inspirational teacher.

mutter In 1976 Herbert von Karajan heard the 13-year-old Mutter in recital at the Lucerne Festival. The legendary conductor subsequently invited the young violinist to make her concerto debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at the 1977 Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Their partnership continued in 1978 when Mutter made her first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, an album of Mozart’s Violin Concertos Nos. 3 and 5. Mutter collaborated regularly with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic to create a landmark series of recordings of violin concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch and Mendelssohn for the Yellow Label. Meanwhile her debuts in Berlin (1978), Washington and New York (1980), Tokyo (1981) and Moscow (1985) garnered critical acclaim and helped establish her regular presence at the world’s major concert halls.

In 1986 Mutter was appointed International Chair in Violin Studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The following year she founded the Rudolf Eberle Trust to support the development of outstandingly gifted young string players throughout Europe. The initiative’s reach extended worldwide in 1997 after it was incorporated into the Friends of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. Mutter’s commitment to the promotion of young musicians has helped launch the careers of many fine artists, Daniel Müller-Schott, Sergey Khachatryan and Roman Patkoló among them. The Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation also supports the Mutter Virtuosi, an ensemble comprising fourteen of the organisation’s former and current scholarship holders. Her Foundation has commissioned André Previn’s Concerto for Violin and Double-bass, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Duo concertante and Wolfgang Rihm’s Dyade. In 2013 she gave the world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s Ringtone Variations, commissioned by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation for the Mutter Virtuosi’s Asian tour.

Anne-Sophie Mutter’s commitment to the future of string playing extends to her wholehearted championship of contemporary music. In 1986 she gave the first performance of Chain II, written for her and the Paul Sacher Foundation by Witold Lutosławski, and recorded the work for Deutsche Grammophon. Her tally of world premiere performances includes Rihm’s Gesungene Zeit and Lichtes Spiel, Penderecki’s Second Violin Concerto Metamorphosen and La Follia for solo violin, Dutilleux’s Sur le même accord, Gubaidulina’s Violin Concerto In tempus praesens, Previn’s Violin Concerto “Anne-Sophie” and Second Violin Sonata, and Currier’s Aftersong and Time Machines. She has recorded these and many other new works for the Yellow Label, together with such monuments of the 20th-century repertoire as Berg’s and Stravinsky’s Violin Concertos and Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto. Mutter won the Grammy® Award for “Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)” three times, respectively for her recordings of Berg’s Violin Concerto and Rihm’s Gesungene Zeit (1994), Penderecki’s Metamorphosen (1999), and Previn’s Violin Concerto and Bernstein’s Serenade (2005).


In the closing years of the 1990s, Mutter recorded Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with the Trondheim Soloists and Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas with her regular duo partner Lambert Orkis. The latter went on to win Grammy® and Echo Awards, while her Vivaldi album attracted critical acclaim and sold over 370,000 copies worldwide. She began the new millennium with a series of touring and recording projects, including Back to the Future, a retrospective look at major works from the 20th-century violin repertoire, and Recital 2000, an album of chamber works by Crumb, Prokofiev, Respighi and Webern. In 2001 Mutter performed Mozart’s complete violin concertos in two evenings as artist-in-residence at Carnegie Hall and with the Vienna Philharmonic in Vienna and on tour in Germany. Previn’s Tango Song and Dance, dedicated to and premiered by Mutter, formed the core of an eponymous recital album and her touring programme in 2003. Her recordings with Previn as conductor include award-winning accounts of his Violin Concerto “Anne-Sophie” and a pairing of the violin concertos by Korngold and Tchaikovsky (Echo Award 2005 for “Instrumentalist of the Year”). Mutter celebrated the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth in 2006 with international tours and complete recordings of his sonatas and concertos for violin.

Highlights of recent seasons include performances and a complete recording of Brahms’s Violin Sonatas with Lambert Orkis; artist-in-residence concerts and chamber music recitals with the New York Philharmonic; an album of first recordings of works by Rihm, Currier and Penderecki (2011), and the release of ASM35, a 40-disc box set of Mutter’s complete recordings for Deutsche Grammophon (2011) issued to mark the 35th anniversary of her professional debut. She was named Musician of the Year 2011 by Musical America, the highest accolade bestowed by one of North America’s most influential and respected arts magazines. In June 2013, Mutter and the Berlin Philharmonic came together at the Berlin Philharmonie, to make their first studio album in 30 years: the resulting recording of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, Mutter’s first, was released to critical acclaim in October 2013. Two months later she and Lambert Orkis gave a concert at Carnegie Hall to celebrate the silver jubilee of both their artistic partnership and of their recital debut at the venue with a programme that included the world premieres of Penderecki’s La Follia and Previn’s Second Violin Sonata. Deutsche Grammophon also celebrated their milestone anniversary with the release of a two-disc set, The Silver Album (2014).

mutter Mutter returned to Carnegie Hall to launch its 2014/15 season in company with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle in October 2014. The opening night gala also marked the beginning of her six-concert term as featured artist in the famous New York venue’s Perspectives series. Perspectives continued the following month with a solo recital of works by Currier, Previn, Franck and Beethoven, and a concert with the Mutter Virtuosi, which included the US premiere of Previn’s Violin Concerto No.2. In February 2015 she celebrated the sesquicentenary of Sibelius’ birth, performing the composer’s Violin Concerto with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Her Perspectives series closed in April with a recital of piano trios given by the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio and performances of Berg’s Violin Concerto and Moret’s En rêve with the New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Anne-Sophie Mutter is set to join the London Symphony Orchestra and André Previn at the Barbican Centre in June 2015 for a special performance of the composer-conductor’s Violin Concerto in honour of his 85th birthday. Future engagements include a 12-concert tour with Lambert Orkis; Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Riccardo Muti at the 2015 Salzburg International Festival, and Dvořák’s Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. She is also set to undertake an extensive European tour with the Mutter Virtuosi at the start of the 2015/16 season. Their journey begins at the Edinburgh International Festival in August with the world premiere of André Previn’s Nonet for two string quartets and double-bass, a work commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter for the Mutter Virtuosi and dedicated to her.

Anne-Sophie Mutter made her debut in Deutsche Grammophon’s Yellow Lounge at Berlin’s Asphalt club on a sweltering night in September 2013, where her 300-strong audience included many young clubbers. She repeated the experience in May 2015 with two dates at Berlin’s Neue Heimat venue, a converted railway station in the city’s bohemian Friedrichshain district. Her performances were recorded live for Deutsche Grammophon’s first Yellow Lounge album, scheduled for release in August 2015. The event was also filmed by ZDF for subsequent television broadcast and as the subject of a future documentary film.

Anne-Sophie Mutter has for long used her public profile to support and promote charitable causes, notably those associated with the alleviation of medical and social problems. Her benefit concerts have raised funds for, among other organisations, Save the Children Japan, the Swiss Multiple Sclerosis Society, victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and nuclear energy disasters, and the Association des amis de la maison de Solenn in Paris. Other recent benefit projects have included fundraising concerts for the Hanna and Paul Gräb Foundation’s Haus der Diakonie in Wehr-Öflingen, Artists against Aids in the United States, the Bruno Bloch Foundation, and the UK-based Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children.

Mutter’s many awards and honours reflect the nature of her humanitarian work as well as the excellence of her artistry. She received the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2008, the Légion d’honneur in 2009 for services to contemporary French music and the 2011 Erich-Fromm-Preis for the advancement of Humanism through social engagement. Other honours include the Merit Cross 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Mendelssohn and Brahms prizes, the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize and the Bavarian Order of Merit. In 2013 Anne-Sophie Mutter became an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and in 2015 she was appointed an Honorary Fellow at Keble College, Oxford.

© 1989 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded at her hotel in Chicago on May 13, 1989.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following year, and again in 1993 and 1998.  This transcription was made in 2016, and posted on this website at that time.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.