Interview with Anne-Sophie Mutter
“Andrei Previn liberated me musically”
May 16, 2022 by Valk Hafner
Violin concerto as an engagement gift – that’s what Anne-Sophie Mutter received from Andre Previn. An exceptional piece that is light, cheerful and full of depth. In the interview, the violinist talks about her relationship with Revin, about his life and what the composer left her with.
Bildquelle: BR /Tobias Hase/Tobias Hase
BR-KLASSIK: Frau Mutter, es gibt ja viele große Komponisten, die Ihnen Werke gewidmet haben. Das von André Previn aber ist personalisiert wie kein zweites, es heißt “Anne-Sophie”. Traut sich da überhaupt ein anderer Interpret, eine andere Interpretin ran?
Anne-Sophie Mutter: Das Interessante ist ja, dass viele, nicht alle, aber fast die meisten der Werke, die für mich geschrieben wurden, die stratosphärischen Höhen der hohen e-Saite ins Visier nehmen. Das ist wohl etwas, was Komponisten an meinem Instrument aber vielleicht auch an meiner Schwindelfreiheit dort oben fasziniert. So werden manche Werke wie beispielsweise “Gesungene Zeit” des wunderbaren deutschen Komponisten Wolfgang Rihm vielleicht etwas weniger aufgeführt. Nicht, weil sie für mich geschrieben wurden und meinen Namen tragen, sondern weil es ganz spezifische, technische Anforderungen gibt, die spezifisch auf eine Person zugeschnitten sind und jetzt nicht für alle bequem sind.
BR-KLASSIK: Wie ist das bei Previns Konzert?
Anne-Sophie Mutter: Da trifft das auch zu, weil er sehr viele extrem hohe Passagen geschrieben hat. Es verklingt ja auch auf dem hohen g, das ist dann schon eigentlich am Rand des Griffbretts.
BR-KLASSIK: Aber es geht wohl nicht nur um die technischen Fertigkeiten, die er da bei Ihnen bewundert hat, sondern Musik ist ja auch immer etwas sehr Persönliches.
Anne-Sophie Mutter: Nun, es war ja ein Verlobungsgeschenk.
Ein gemeinsames Gefühl wird Musik
BR-KLASSIK: Finden Sie sich da selber wieder in der Musik? Fühlen Sie sich gut getroffen?
Anne-Sophie Mutter with Andre Previn. | Image Credit: BR / Harald Hoffman / DG
Anne Sophie strung: Well, I don’t think it’s about me. Maybe it has to do with a general feeling that we naturally have, otherwise we wouldn’t get engaged and we wouldn’t get married and we wouldn’t stay married, even for a very short time, and we’ve been lifelong friends. I find that again in the concerto, which is very romantic; which also relates to Andrei’s childhood in Germany. He was Jewish and had to leave Berlin with his parents when he was nine or ten years old. And he was lucky that the Gestapo officer warned the family – his father was a very successful lawyer in Berlin – that they would be taken. Then she fled to Paris with Andre, whose real name is Andreas Ludwig.
Classic BR: Andrei Previn then grew up in the USA.
Anne Sophie Mutter: Then he settled in California, met Jascha Heifetz there and, last but not least, began his career as a film director in Hollywood, like many great artists. However, the violin concerto serves as a reminiscence of his time in Berlin and in the latter movement…
Classic BR: … “If I were a little bird” I heard there …
Anne Sophie Mutter: …exactly, the subject of his favorite children’s song. Of course, while he was composing, he didn’t ask me which one was mine. And I was really impressed at the end because he also picked my kids’ favorite song.
Classic B: Was Andrei Previn a funny person?
He was one – if not the most charming guy I’ve ever met. I didn’t marry him for nothing.
Anne Sophie strung
Anne Sophie Mutter: He was one of the funniest storytellers, if not the most charming man I’ve ever met. I didn’t marry him for nothing. A talented jazz musician. But artists are complicated. And anyone who’s complicated can be the opposite, too.
Classic BR: How did you deal with his story? Many people who have suffered badly as a result of the Holocaust don’t like to talk about it. Going into exile is an incredibly profound turning point. Did he talk about it?
Anne Sophie Mutter: He really liked German literature and German painting. Of course he speaks fluent German. Well-known authors that only Germans really know, such as Heinrich Böll. He always told me that he saw escaping as a great adventure. It seems that the parents succeeded in explaining the dire consequences and the reasons for the trip to him in a way that did not cause him any shock. Of course, the family suffered terribly. Especially the father, who could not get a foothold as a lawyer in California, but gave piano lessons there and might be embittered. The whole family suffered as a result. Andrei also had to earn money very early, he sold organs at the age of sixteen and already worked nonstop from an early age.
Classic B: Andrei Previn passed away in 2019. Is there anything you can take from him musically?
Andre Previn conducts the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter in concert at the 2004 Lucerne Festival. | Image source: Urs Flüeler / picture-alliance / dpa | EPA Keystone Filler
Anne Sophie Mutter: I think it liberated me musically in many ways. Break free from a wonderful training. My violin teacher Aida Stocky is beyond doubt. But perhaps it is not about something violin, but something related to the musical repertoire. Perhaps something deeply German does not necessarily have only positive connotations. A certain toughness, especially when it comes to repertoire outside of traditional contemporary music. My turn to Gershwin, for example, or my return to Chrysler. The work of great performers and composers is forgotten because we focus so much on this essential repertoire. Andre’s musical association eventually made the connection with John Williams, the human musical encounter, possible in the first place. It’s hard to believe, but I’m a shy person, I wouldn’t have dared to call him that way.
He always thought I could play jazz and improvise and we should do it on stage. But I also know where my limits are.
Anne Sophie strung
Classic BR: and jazz?
Anne Sophie Mutter: Of course, it also brought me closer to jazz. He always thought I could play jazz and improvise and we should do it on stage. But I also know where my limits are.
Classic BR: Andrei Previn edited me. Is there a nicer compliment than this?
Anne Sophie Mutter: Free music! Not at all. He has written about ten works of mine, all of which are wonderful. Also for scholarship holders in my institution. Concerto for Double Bass and Violin that is really – no joke – important for double bass. There are two other works that I haven’t shown for the first time yet.
Long live Anne Sophie Motter
On May 20, 2022, Anne-Sophie Mutter will play André Previn’s violin concerto “Anne-Sophie” live with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko at the Isarphilharmonie in Munich.
Broadcasting: “Leporello” on May 17, 2022 From 4:05 pm at BR-KLASSIK