Violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter is the guest artist in three performances at Davies Symphony Hall this week, as Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program which features Brahms’ Violin Concerto, Schumann’s Symphony No 1, and The Light that Fills the World by John Luther Adams in its first performance by the San Francisco Symphony. Ye-Eun Choi – Ms Mutter’s protégé – plays the Brahms concerto in the final concert of the week.
Anne-Sophie Mutter has graced the stages of many of the world’s major concert halls, and has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony on a number of occasions, her debut having been as a Shenson Young Artist in 1988. Described by The Times (London) as “The undisputed queen of violin playing”, Ms Mutter is a three-times winner of the Grammy® Award for ‘Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)’, and – together with pianist Lambert Orkis, her recital partner of 25 years – was the recipient of the Grammy® Award for ‘Best Chamber Music Performance’.
A fervent champion of contemporary music, Ms Mutter’s repertoire includes 22 compositions written for her, and she has been commended by The Chicago Tribune for having contributed more than “any living violinist to enrich the late 20th-Century violin repertory”. In her role as Carnegie Hall’s 2014-2015 Perspectives Artist, Anne-Sophie Mutter is curating a six-concert series, featuring some of today’s greatest conductors, orchestras and soloists. She has established a Foundation in her name to help young violinists as they embark on careers on the concert stage, and founded The Mutter Virtuosi – an ensemble of former and current scholarship students.
One such scholarship student is Ye-Eun Choi, the 26-year-old Korean violinist who makes her debut with the San Francisco Symphony on Sunday. Since winning the scholarship in 2005, Ms Choi has worked closely with Anne-Sophie Mutter, with whom she and other scholarship recipients toured North America last November. In 2007 Ms Choi was selected as ‘Rising Star’ by the American Symphony Orchestra League, she made her debut with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in 2009, and in 2013 she was recipient of the ‘Young Artist’ European Cultural Award.
The Brahms Violin Concerto – now a well loved work and known for its lyrical melodies – was written for violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, with whom Brahms collaborated extensively during the writing of the concerto. It premiered in Leipzig, with Joachim as soloist and Brahms conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and was, at best, politely received, but two weeks later, the concerto was performed in Vienna, and given a warm reception.
This week’s concerts open with a chamber version of The Light that Fills the World by Alaskan-based contemporary composer, John Luther Adams – described by The New Yorker as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century”. It was written, Adams says, “in late winter and early spring, when the world is still white but filled with new light, following the long darkness of winter”. Composed in 1998, it was the first of three pieces which are specifically linked to the subject of light, and was followed in 2001 by After the Light, and in 2007 by The Light Within. John Luther Adams has a deep personal interest in environmental issues and actively campaigned for the Alaska National Interests Conservation Act, which became federal law in 1980, leading to the establishment, or significant expansion of, eight national parks in the state. He was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his orchestral work, Become Ocean, and was named Musical America’s 2015 Composer of the Year.
This week’s concerts end with Schumann’s Spring Symphony, so called because Schumann had spring in mind when he was writing it – during what must have been a long and cold winter in Leipzig. Wilhelm Taubert, Court Conductor in Berlin, was to introduce the work there, and Schumann wrote to him asking him to “breathe a little of the longing for spring into your orchestra as they play”. The work had its first public performance at a pension fund concert of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on March 31, 1841, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.
Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by John Luther Adams, Brahms and Schumann, on February 26, 27 and 28 at 8.00 pm, with Ann-Sophie Mutter as guest artist. Ye-Eun Choi is the soloist in the performance on March 1 at 2.00 pm. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.