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:
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.
“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.”
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!