New Classical Tracks: Mendelssohn with a light touch

Anne-Sophie Mutter
Mendelssohn: Anne-Sophie Mutter/Kurt Masur, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (DG 12533)
Album cover

This year marks the 200th birth anniversary of Felix Mendelssohn, a composer Anne-Sophie Mutter highly admires. To celebrate, she's compiled her favorite symphonic and chamber works by Mendelssohn into a perfect party favor.

On this new release, Mutter revisits the composer's well-known violin concerto, and she explores two lesser-known chamber pieces.

Anne-Sophie Mutter first recorded Mendelssohn's E minor Violin Concerto in 1980 at age 17, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan.

For this release, she dug deeper into the work and its history, by traveling to Leipzig to record it with the orchestra Mendelssohn conducted in the mid-19th century, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Kurt Masur, the ensemble's Conductor Laureate, led the Gewandhaus Orchestra for 26 years.

Anne-Sophie Mutter loves working with this ensemble under his direction. In this performance Mutter and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra are feeling and breathing the music together, creating a tight inner balance.

Anne-Sophie Mutter's technical perfection is exceptional. It's her expressive use of vibrato that makes her performance special, and her carefree, comfortable style.

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The cadenza in the first movement is spellbinding. Mutter uses calculated pauses, generating a sense of anticipation with every note. The final Allegretto is light and animated; Mutter's nimble bowing and finger technique is mesmerizing.

When performing with Mutter, Kurt Masur tells the orchestra to "let her fly." Anne-Sophie Mutter's violin soars in this performance.

Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor was first performed in Leipzig in 1839 with the composer as the pianist. In this performance, Andre Previn, who turns 80 this spring, plays with youthful exuberance The star power of this trio -- Previn, Mutter and cellist Lynn Harrell -- is breathtaking in the virtuosic scherzo.

The impish playfulness of this movement is reminiscent of the music Mendelssohn wrote for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The exciting live performances on this recording can be relived by listening to the CD, or by watching a companion DVD that features all three works in their entirety.

If you're planning on celebrating Mendelssohn's 200th birthday this year, don't forget to add Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Kurt Masur to your guest list.