When German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter burst onto the classical scene in the late 1980s, she was also bursting out of her dress — sporting sexy strapless numbers onstage that led some critics to accuse the beauty of trying to curry favor through her looks as well as her art. Unflustered by the hype, the young musician explained that her primary reason for donning those eye-catching costumes was because she felt more in tune with the violin's sensitive responses when the instrument was pressed directly against her flesh. Asked by one journalist to comment on Mutter's unorthodox technique, veteran violinist Isaac Stern shrewdly replied that he'd never played his violin in anything less than a T-shirt, and seemed to be doing just fine. But Mutter's expressive, virtuoso violin playing quickly quashed all the critical commentary surrounding those sensual shoulders; for the last decade, she's been one of the most respected and sought-after soloists around.
Mutter's San Francisco performance celebrates the development of violin literature during the 20th century, a concept she's been touring in recitals and orchestral concerts alike. Accompanied by pianist Lambert Orkis, her recital partner of over 10 years, Mutter will perform a difficult but engaging program featuring Arvo Pärt's Fratres, Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, Prokofiev's Sonata for Violin and Piano, and Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2, for which she will be joined by German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. A longtime champion of the work of living composers, Mutter has premiered works written for her by Witold Lutoslawski, Wolfgang Rihm, Norbert Moret, Sebastian Currier, and Krzysztof Penderecki, whose new Sonata for Violin and Piano was to receive its San Francisco premiere in this recital appearance. The piece, which is not yet completed, will be performed by Mutter at a later date.
Anne-Sophie Mutter performs Saturday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. There's a pre-concert lecture by Robert Greenberg at 4:30. Tickets are $15-57; call 864-6000.