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Anne-Sophie Mutter

by Kathryn Boughton

When Anne-Sophie Mutter takes the stage at Tanglewood next weekend she will fan the flames of a passion ignited almost 50 years ago when, as a mere child living in the foothills of the Alps, her parents introduced her to the world of music.

“My parents were not musicians,” she said, “but they liked jazz and classical music and there was always music in our home.”

She and her siblings were encouraged to choose an instrument to play and thus began her long love affair with the violin. “It ignited a fire,” she said, adding that there is no possibility of the flame dying out soon.

Among her many passions is promoting new works and younger musicians. So far, she has given world premieres of twenty-four works from composers such as Sebastian Currier, Henri Dutilleux, Sofia Gubaidulina, Witold Lutoslawski, Norbert Moret, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sir André Previn and Wolfgang Rihm, all of which were composed especially for her.

At Tanglewood on July 16, under the baton of Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Andris Nelsons, she will play the world première of composer John Williams’ Markings, a piece for solo violin, strings and harp. She said Markings is a very serene piece, but that at the time she was interviewed it was not bringing her serenity. “He just delivered the last segment this week,” she said, “and now it is all practice.”

She will also play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto during her appearance.

Mutter made her professional debut at age thirteen at the Salzburg Whitsun Concerts under the baton of the late Herbert von Karajan, starting a career that has earned her consistent acclaim and has made her one of the highest-earning classical violinists of the day.

Mutter’s passion for music includes promotion fostering an awareness of classical music among others. She says the lack of musical education in schools is. in part, responsible for the declining interest in classical music, and, like other classical musicians, she is willing to take her music to audiences of the uninitiated. “I will stalk them,” she quipped.

She participates in Deutsche Grammophon’s (DG’s) Yellow Lounge, a “classical-goes-clubbing,” project that takes the best in classical music to nightclubs. The performances move from venue to venue and are publicized on the Yellow Lounge website.

“Yellow Lounge is a unique concept,” said Mutter. “It brings the world’s greatest music to an audience that might not otherwise get to hear it, in intimate settings that really bring performers and listeners close together.”

She said she was terrified before her ground-breaking Yellow Lounge 2013 appearance, where she attracted one of the biggest crowds in the history of DG’s series. “The audience was amazing,” she said. “They were completely involved in the music.”

The live recording Anne-Sophie Mutter – Live from Yellow Lounge of her return club performance in Berlin in May 2015 was released on CD, vinyl, DVD and Blu-ray disc in 2015, the first live recording from a Yellow Lounge.

Mutter is active off the stage and on. Her engagement in different causes is as intense as her concentration on her music. For forty years Mutter has provided scholarship programs and performing opportunities for gifted rising musicians through the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation and Mutter Virtuosi.

Her efforts on behalf of global issues such as climate change, global hunger, refugees and the needy are wide-ranging. She founded two orphanages in Romania—one that cares for eighty boys, the other one hundred fifty to one hundred sixty boys and girls. Not all of the children are orphans, with some finding shelter from very dysfunctional homes.

She said she chose Romania because she had read that in parts of Romania girls were not being educated and have few options.

“As a mother, I feel a sense of responsibility toward children growing up in challenging circumstances,” she said. “It’s meaningful and satisfying for me to see at least a small group of children slightly more cared for and looked after. Life is only meaningful if you share it with others.”

Education is a word frequently on her lips. She gives benefit concerts to promote her causes, using them as a vehicle to illuminate her causes.

“I can do that through benefit concerts which shed light on issues and life circumstances facing people,” she said. “These events highlight these issues for members of society. For example, every three seconds, a child somewhere in the world dies of malnutrition and starvation.”

In March of this year, she, conductor Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhaus Orchestra donated their salaries, some €60,000, to two refugee education charities. Integration through Education and Interaction Leipzig.

Mutter commented on her Facebook page: “… We musicians sent out a highly visible signal for support and empathy, and against exclusion and hatred.”

She can barely contain her sense of urgency about the increasing hostilities around the world and the erratic course the U.S. has displayed. “Europeans are in a panic,” she said as she commented on the “huge demonstrations” taking place outside the G20 Summit last week.

For her commitment to raising awareness to food inequality and the global hunger crisis, Mutter was recently honored with one of the 2017 Crystal Awards, presented at the 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. She has also been awarded the German Grand Order of Merit, the French Medal of the Legion of Honor, the Bavarian Order of Merit, the Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria and numerous other honors.

Anne-Sophie Mutter has received four Grammies, nine Echo Classic Awards, the German Recording Award, the Record Academy Prize, the Grand Prix du Disque and the International Phono Award.

Her July 16th performance will take place at 2:30PM at Tanglewood, 297 West Street, Lenox MA.