Anne-Sophie Mutter has always been a superlative violinist with an imposing sound and technique that command attention. As she has progressed her career she has shown a growing reluctance to restrain her interpretations, and this 2008 Mendelssohn recording is evidence that as she progresses in her now-mature career she is becoming more and more assertive in that direction. Here she has wisely programmed not just the German Romantic's evergreen Violin Concerto, but also his less well-known Piano Trio in D minor and his nearly ignored Violin Sonata in F major, thereby attractively broadening the range of repertoire. And Mutter has astutely joined with Kurt Masur and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in the concerto, with cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist André Previn in the trio, and with Previn in the sonata.
But, naturally, it is Mutter's playing that is most significant here, and it is on this point that her diehard and more fickle fans will part company. Mutter's flexible tempo rubato, willful phrasing, and free use of glissando, portimento, and vibrato fall outside the interpretive mainstream for early Romantic music, so purists may chafe. These same qualities suffused Mutter's recent recordings of Mozart and Bach, and they were just as characteristic of the musician and uncharacteristic of the music there as they are here. Listeners unfamiliar with Mutter who find brilliantly virtuosic and highly individualistic violin playing appealing will likely enjoy this disc. Listeners who prefer a more direct representation of the musical substance with less personal charisma may not. It should be added that Deutsche Grammophon's digital sound, while wonderfully clear and vivid, is focused more on the violinist than on her accompanists.