How much is too much, when it comes to a soloist putting his or her personal stamp on a well-known favorite?
This question came to me this week as I read the wildly differing yet passionate opinions inspired by a series of performances by Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Chicago Symphony. Mutter performed Mozart Concerto No. 5 for the orchestra's Gala Concert last Friday, followed the next night by the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for its opening subscription series. While everyone acknowledged her technical skill and incredible presence as a performer, opinions ranged greatly over how much personal touch was there, and whether it was too little or too much. When it came to the Tchaikovsky, Sun-Times critic Kyle MacMillan found it "comfortably elegant" and wished for more "sparks of spontaneity" -- while Michael Cameron at the Chicago Classical Review called her approach "free-wheeling" and said that "her refusal to submit to a predictable interpretive routine was as bracing as it was unsettling." For John von Rhein at the Chicago Tribune, her Mozart 5 interpretation was so "overlaid with romanticized touches" that it "crossed the line from expressive refinement to mannerism."
We like to think that we are open to an artist who "thinks outside the box," especially someone whose artistry we have trusted for many years, but are we?
Speaking for myself, I have to say that sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. For example, how about this notorious Mozart 3 cadenza by French violinist Gilles Apap, which pretty obviously leaves the classical genre and enters into whistling, country fiddle, jazz etc. Thrilling! Completely inappropriate! Which is it?
To start the conversation, I wanted so see what people generally think about taking liberties in music such as the popular violin concertos, which are both well-known, frequently recorded and performed, and composed in detail. Is the highest aim to convey the composer's wishes? Or is it more interesting when the performer is expressing something through those ideas and finding their own take on them? Or is the score just a starting point?
Please also add your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
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