Berg/Rihm

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berg/Rihm
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Gesungene Zeit
PERFORMER: Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin); Chicago SO/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: 437 093-2 DDD
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s version of the Berg Concerto belongs with the very finest recorded performances, right alongside those by Grumiaux, Suk, Perlman and Kremer. It’s a dramatic and terrifying account, often despairing in its lyricism; the consoling sweetness that so many interpreters emphasise is allowed to surface only in the very last few pages. Levine’s ability to tease out and focus the sinewy orchestral lines lends a real expressionist intensity to every texture. The complexities and ambiguities at the emotional core of the concerto have never seemed so vivid.

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The pairing with Wolfgang Rihm’s Gesungene Zeit, a meditation for violin and orchestra dedicated to Mutter and completed last year, is a wonderfully imaginative one. The silvery thread of her violin tone, its poise and eloquence, provide the starting-point for an absorbing musical journey that proceeds by association, as the solo line attracts other instruments to join in its ruminations, or spawns ideas to be developed elsewhere in the orchestra. As Rihm’s music becomes increasingly personal and introspective, his pre-eminence among European composers of the post-war era seems ever more obvious. Andrew Clements