This month, I was lucky enough to see two of this century’s most lauded violinists: Anna-Sophie Mutter and Joshua Bell.
Bell played a beautiful Mendelssohn violin concerto in E minor, while Mutter played a Sebastien Currier piece (composed for her) called Time Machines and a Dvorak violin concerto.
Mendelssohn is just great, and a violin concerto by him, especially one in a melancholy minor key, is always going to be great. Bell was showy and brilliant, but the comparison to Mutter was instructive. The pieces she played – a contemporary and fragmented piece that was as much a dialogue between violin and orchestra as it was a concerto for violin and orchestra, and a good, romantic, but not very (to my ears) exceptional early violin concerto by Dvorak – were far less showy than the moody, frantic Mendelssohn but you could tell: Mutter plays better with others. Her interaction with the orchestra… you could tell the difference. Just because I love Mendelssohn, I liked the music played by Bell better than that played by Mutter, but I suspect that Mutter is a better performer, overall, to see. Or, at least, a better example of classical music’s cooperative qualities.