Thursday, 3 November 2005

Tête à claques IV

Anne-Sophie Mutter was back in town last month. I didn’t go to her concert. She's stood me up twice in the past. There is a limit!

Back in February 1999, when I was peacefully waiting for death, she played Beethoven Violin Sonatas, over three nights, on BBC2 – like an angel. It was moving, soothing, life affirming. I vowed to go and listen to her live at the first opportunity.

She came to London in June 2001. I’d recently had the flu (the real one; the one that would stop you from getting out of bed and picking up a £50 note if there was one just outside your door and it meant you had to get out of bed). The stupid flu had triggered a bad bout of cervical arthritis and I could hardly sit with my head straight for any length of time, but she was going to play the Korngold Violin Concerto and the combination of Anne-Sophie Mutter and Korngold was too attractive to miss.

I staggered to the Barbican Concert Hall only to find that she wasn’t going to play the Korngold but some composition by her new beau, André Previn. I was livid. The piece was unremarkable and unworthy of her talent. By the end of it, I was livid and feeling dizzy. Still, ok, I’d heard Anne-Sophie live. I’d seen her and could testify that the beautiful strapless dress she wore (she always wears stunning strapless dresses) stayed on whatever she did with that lovely instrument of hers.

The arrogance of the woman, though! Did she assume people would come and listen to her, whatever rubbish she played? She did, didn’t she? Well, she was wrong, in my case: I’m not a groupie; I wanted to hear her play one of my favourite pieces of music (I have a recording of Jascha Heifetz playing the Korngold and I love it). I wanted to hear it, not something else.

Two years later she was back. Again she was going to play the Korngold. Again I booked a ticket. Again she didn’t play it. She didn’t play at all. They said she was unwell. I was warned by email from the Barbican and decided to return my ticket. What they didn’t say was that the great Maxim Vengerov would step in and play some other beautiful piece wonderfully, so I’d cut my nose to spite my face by not going at all, but it was the principle of the thing. Oh, and I didn’t believe she was ill, by the way: some better offer must have come up.

I've learned since that she's not only arrogant, but very very greedy. This is what Norman Lebrecht wrote about her in the Evening Standard, last month:

“At 42 she makes well over three million dollars a year from sixty performances, which is more than the combined income of players in a symphony orchestra in Britain or Scandinavia.

Ahead of next year's Mozart jamboree – it's the 250th anniversary of his birth – Mutter astutely organised a world tour of the violin concertos and sonatas. The LSO booked her sonata cycle, three nights at £30,000 each – breaking the budget rules, but just about justifiable in terms of a warm long-term relationship and virtual exclusivity.

Then Mutter decided to play the concertos with the London Philharmonic at an earlier brace of concerts, and record them for DG. By the time she reached the Barbican a fortnight ago, whatever musical curiosity London felt about her Mozart had been thoroughly exhausted and only sixty percent of the tickets were sold. The Barbican echoed with empty spaces and the LSO, which paid for the series, was left with a substantial loss. Mutter, I hear on the grapevine, was asked to reduce her invoice and bluntly refused.”

Lebrecht is asking for her to be banned from the London music scene. Apparently, she was banned 12 years ago, for two seasons, because she would not drop her £10,000 fee.

She deserves to be slapped. And, while I’m at it, I’m slapping all the female performers (actresses, musicians, etc.) who insist on working more or less exclusively with their hubbies. It’s yucky. It’s ridiculous. There are quite a few out there (and, yes, that includes Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins). Slap!


  1. Oh no! I've always wanted to hear her perform live. I have several of her recordings and always thought her playing was beautiful. Now here I see her being slapped. And worse, for good reasons. Well, there's no lesson like the lesson you learn yourself, so I will probably still buy a ticket when she comes around and wait until I get stood up twice before I slap her too. ;)

  2. I hate it when spouses trade off on each other's fame/notoriety. They all deserve to be slapped. Remember Brian Mulroney and Mila? *shudder* And Bill Clinton and Hilary? And Wayne and Wanda (from the Muppets?). Altho I am OK with Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton-that may be a match made in heaven.

  3. Well, T, if you expect her not to play the piece that’s advertised on the programme she won’t disappoint you, and if you expect her to play beautifully she won’t disappoint you either. LOL!

    C, I really don’t find it charming at all – especially in the case of acting couples. Even Judi Dench and Michael Williams were doing it. Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton work well together, but I recently read an interview where she said that she’d had to audition for him for his last film. Oh really? Pull the other one!

  4. I saw her perform live at Carnegie Hall. It was a memorable evening, as she played Shostakovich's Piano Trio in E minor, which was so fantastic I don't remember the other thing on the program. (I'm pretty sure it was a Beethoven sonata.) She is a very cool, precise, deliberate sort of violinist in my opinion. Forgive me for saying so Bela, but I also love the Korngold (and have Heifetz's recording!) and I am not sure it would be a good match with Mutter. She doesn't have the romance in her soul for it, in my opinion. Overall, I much prefer Vengerov, by most accounts a sweetheart and one hell of a player. I want to see him live.

    Your Korngold woes remind me that I have been trying to hear the Emperor Concerto live for quite some time too. First, I had tickets to hear Murray Perahia perform it ... but he was having wrist trouble, wasn't up to the technical demands so at the last minute he substituted an early Mozart concerto that was pretty, but no Emperor. Then I was supposed to hear Emil Gilels perform it in Chicago two weeks ago but my mother came down with pneumonia so I spent the evening in the emergency room with her. (She is just fine now.) I am starting to feel jinxed with my favorite piano concerto, too, so I feel your pain. I am now rather afraid to get another ticket for fear I will bring some other health problem on someone else, maybe the conductor this time.

    Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying sure, I'll slap Anne-Sophie. That really was a lousy trick to pull on you, and then later on the Barbican.

  5. Since you've had the same experience, I know you understand exactly how I feel, F. It's maddening, isn't it? I have to confess I don't go to concerts that often (the theatre is my first love) and I'm unaccustomed to such behaviour: serious actors go on stage even at death's door and rarely disappoint their public in that way.

    From what you're telling me it looks like Anne-Sophie might have spoilt the Korngold for me, still...

    Hope the jink has been lifted and you manage to hear the "Emperor" very soon.

  6. Ahhh, Bela, I understand you, I'd be mad too if I went to a concert in order to listen to a piece that was annonced and I didn't at last !!!! This is a total lack of respect. I think you should have come and see her after the show and slap her for real ^-^ (hehehe)

  7. Hey, you're right; I never thought of doing that, C! But that was six years ago: I was younger and nicer then. LOL!


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