Eighteenth-century German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, best-known for his poetic drama, Faust, described string quartet music as “four rational people conversing.” Essentially, the “conversation” begins when one instrument introduces a melody or motif and then the other instruments subsequently “respond” with a similar motif. It’s a thread that, over the years, has been woven through the history of chamber music.
From its origin, chamber music has been composed for a small group of instruments — traditionally, a group that could fit in, say, a palace chamber of a large sitting room. In fact, for more than 100 years the music was primarily played by amateur musicians in their homes and was sometimes described as “the music of friends.” This summer, the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin, alongside celebrated violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, will make its North American debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival.
The ensembles, friendly music rivals, were first united in 2005 when Sir Simon Rattle, then the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, wished to conduct a common concert of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras for his 50th birthday. The collaboration was so positive, it continues today and out of this idea, the combined chamber orchestra ensemble was born.
And this Bravo! season opener, truly a landmark event which will showcase the musical and technical prowess of some of Europe’s finest musicians, will be made even more exceptional with the appearance of master violinist, Mutter.
“To present the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin in its North American debut is a singular opportunity for Bravo! Vail. That this occasion marks the Vail debut of the great violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter performing all five of Mozart’s violin concertos is thrilling,” says Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott. “We are so excited to be a home for this compelling musical partnership and to introduce them to our exceptional audience and setting.”
Mutter has built a career on her signature, colorful sound and magnetic stage presence, being described by The New York Times as a violinist with “rich tone and flamboyant expressiveness.” She is universally considered to be one of the greatest violinists of modern times, her artistry embracing everything from tone richness and unsurpassed technical virtuosity to remarkable expression and soul-stirring musicianship.”
Born in West Germany in 1963, Mutter first wanted to play the violin after listening to an album of the Mendelssohn and Beethoven violin concertos that her parents had given to each other as an engagement present. At the age of 13 she was invited by the conductor Herbert von Karajan to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. They worked together until his death in 1989. “He knew just how far he could push a young musician and also the orchestra,” Mutter once told an interviewer. “He would always push you to the edge of what you could comprehend at that very moment; what you were physically able to bring to the performance.”
And Mutter is sure to bring outstanding virtuosity to her performance with the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin when she makes her debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival on June 20 where she will play a program of Mozart pieces including Violin Concerto No. 2, Violin Concerto No. 3 and Violin Concerto No. 5. The following evening, the orchestra’s performance will include Divertimento for Oboe, Two Horns and String, Violin Concerto No.1, Symphony No. 1 and Violin Concerto No. 4.
The chamber orchestra, along with the performance of Mutter is just the beginning of what will be a landmark season for Bravo! Vail as, in addition to the performances of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, the festival will present Puccini’s, Tosca, “A Premiere Opera Production,” with stage direction by James Alexander and music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting. The production will be set in the 1800s and the opera will showcase an all-star cast.
“I never imagined when I became Artistic Director in 2010 that Bravo! Vail would be mounting this unique production of Tosca with the amazing Yannick Nézet-Séguin, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and director James Alexander. It is both humbling and inspiring that the Bravo! community has so generously embraced this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring opera to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater at the highest artistic level,” shared McDermott in a press release.
The Bravo! Vail Music Festival has long been considered one of the most important classical music festivals in the United States. It brings weeks of magnificent music that seemingly flows through our magical valley.
At once, the birdsongs are more melodic, the tree branches sway rhythmically and all is well in our world.