Anne-Sophie Mutter, a John Williams premiere, and Bambis at Tanglewood
LENOX — When you’ve been featured as a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in more performances than the number of years you’ve been alive, where is there left to go? For the acclaimed violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, 54, the answer is: Anywhere she wants. It was a cloudy Thursday morning in Lenox, but Mutter was sunny and bright when she picked up the phone at the Blantyre hotel. She had good reason to be excited. In a few hours, she would rehearse with the BSO, and for the first time, soloist and orchestra would play “Markings,” a new piece dedicated to her by Boston Pops laureate conductor John Williams. An avid advocate for and performer of new music, she had been asking Williams for a piece “for some time,” she confirmed. The world premiere will begin Sunday afternoon’s Andris Nelsons-conducted concert, which will also feature her as soloist in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.
Q. What drew you to ask John Williams to compose a piece for you? What was it about his music that attracted you to it?
A. It’s just the uniqueness of his orchestration. He certainly is among the two or three greatest composers of music in any genre. And for me, having a piece by John Williams is a wonderful enlargement and enrichment of the violin repertoire. Because he writes in a way which is extremely refined. And the piece, which is called “Markings,” it’s for string orchestra and harp. It’s wonderfully, delicately orchestrated. He just understands how to write for instruments. And that seems to be something normal, you might think, but it is not, particularly in times in which we live. Much of contemporary music can be overloaded with information. Everything gets bigger and louder, but it doesn’t necessarily do justice to what instruments have as their characteristic features, and John Williams is one of the composers who understands how to put instruments into the best possible position to soar, to fly.
Q. Tell me about the new piece, “Markings.”
A. It is a short, serene, very poetic, mostly lyrical piece with a wonderfully witty and virtuosic center part. Sadly it is very short, and my hopes are still there that Mr. Williams, who is of course very busy, might find the time to add a few more bars, so it might be a work in progress. But it is as it is now, in its form, absolutely perfect. A very unique musical setting, just the strings and the harp and the solo violin.
Q. When was the first time you came to Tanglewood?
A. That’s a very good question. I cannot answer that precisely. It was in the times of Seiji Ozawa. I do remember I was here when my daughter was just born, and she was about 9 months old, so that must have been in the mid ’90s. There are pictures of Arabella — she was fascinated by Seiji Ozawa’s full head of hair, and she used to dig her hands in and giggle! Fond memories. Tanglewood is one of the great festivals, and the surroundings are beautiful, and the music-making is out of this world. You know, being here and making music with friends, and enjoying nature — nature is just gorgeous out here. The other day I saw two Bambis just right on the lawn. It’s just so inspiring, the whole thing, being among friends and audience and having fun and being in a surrounding that is much less uptight, much less regulated.
Q. What’s your favorite thing about working with Andris Nelsons?
A. I’ve known him for quite a while, and known him since his days in England. We’ve gone through quite a number of repertoire. [Herbert von] Karajan once explained that a conductor is like a jockey, having a jumping horse. His main aim is to allow and put the horse into a position where it can easily jump, where it can do what it is there to do. In other words, the conductor has to be a facilitator. He has to inspire, and he has to bring his interpretational ideas forward, as Andris does. But he also has to set [the players] free, so they are able to express their own personality. And that within the framework of what the conductor’s viewpoint is, is something really very difficult to achieve. And Andris is able to achieve that. And he’s a wonderfully great person, which is an added plus.
Q. Who else would you like to commission a piece from?
A. I have commissioned for the next few years a piece by Jorg Widmann, a quartet. Not an entire quartet, probably only a quartet movement. I have commissioned a piece by Unsuk Chin, the great Korean composer. I have also commissioned a trio by Sebastian Currier, a longtime favorite composer of mine. And Andre Previn has just written a piece for violin and piano called “The Fifth Season,” which we will premiere at Carnegie Hall next year.
Q. What do you do to relax?
A. Staring at Bambis walking over the lawn. [laughs] Jokes aside, I love nature. I love hiking in the mountains, I love trees, and I love silence, the silence of nature which is never silent. I think it’s a great present for all of us. I love to read, to cook, to go to the cinema. It was how I came across John Williams’s music about 40 years ago, when the first “Star Wars” appeared. Since then I have been his greatest fan.
BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
At Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood, Lenox. Sunday, 2:30 p.m. www.bso.org