Mutter, Orkis Explore the Genius of Mozart To mark the composer's 250th birthday this year, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis have been on an all-Mozart sonata concert tour. They also have released a four-CD set of 16 Mozart sonatas.
NPR logo

Mutter, Orkis Explore the Genius of Mozart

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Mutter, Orkis Explore the Genius of Mozart

Mutter, Orkis Explore the Genius of Mozart

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

This year to mark Mozart's 250th birthday, the violinist Anna-Sophie Mutter and the pianist Lambert Orkis have been playing Mozart sonatas in recitals, and they've made a four-CD album of 16 Mozart sonatas.

(Soundbite of Mozart)

SIEGEL: Mozart started writing these duets before he was eight. But there's nothing juvenile about the pieces that Orkis and Mutter play.

Ms. ANNA-SOPHIE MUTTER (Violinist): I've always been impressed by the depth of emotion. Not only the understanding of style and the perfection, also the very early pieces of style elements. Of course, over the years Mozart has matured. And age, you know, with a genius like Mozart, what did you know of life at the age of six or seven? I think it's just a God given maturity, which he was able to then further enhance and, you know, bring to life in his music, but it had nothing to do with the years he had actually already lived.

Mr. LAMBERT ORKIS (Pianist): And Anna-Sophie and I loved to look at the letters that Mozart shared with his father, with his sister, with other friends and to see what was on his mind during those periods of time. We loved playing those E minor sonatas, which were written during a very depressing time in his life. He was in Paris, he was looking for a good position, he wasn't having success and his mother died.

And the music just seems to be filled with this rather sad mood.

Ms. MUTTER: I think it stands out as being one of the most intimate and probably most revealing soul searching pieces.

Mr. ORKIS: It's the only one for this genre totally written in a minor key.

(Soundbite of Mozart)

SIEGEL: When I get you to put the headphones on like this and listen to your own recording, are you right now thinking, yes, we really got this on this recording or why am I doing -

Ms. MUTTER: Partially.

Mr. ORKIS: Partially, yeah.

Ms. MUTTER: Yeah, partially. Recording always is, you know, especially this one, the Mozart project for me has been a great labor of love. Because it has involved so much work and dedication and time and research. And the playing itself has so much detail to be found, especially in the sonatas, you know, where the dialogue and the late pieces of eminent importance between violin and piano. And where the violin finally also gets out of the shadow of the piano.

Mr. ORKIS: There's no time to let go and just relax in this music. I mean you're constantly kept busy, you're constantly focusing trying to extract every bit of music you can out of it. It sounds fairly simple -

SIEGEL: Yeah. It sounds very relaxed. Yeah. The most peaceful music we could possibly be listening to right now.

Ms. MUTTER: You know, I very often think about the Japanese haiku, which very few words have a lot of meaning. And that's true for Mozart's music. Very few notes. But they're all of equal importance there's nothing to really hide yourself. It's not like a Tchaikovsky or Brahms where sometimes, you know, things are rolling along and you kind of are part of the process. But with Mozart, it's crafting jewels. You know, it's like ingraining something on a grain of rice.

Mr. ORKIS: Yeah. It is very transparent.

(Soundbite of Mozart)

Ms MUTTER: Every evening is very much influenced by the instrument Lambert is playing, by the acoustics in the hall. Is there reverberation, is there none? What tempo really fits the hall? Because this is the third instrument we have to deal with every evening in the recital evenings. So yes there is a preset interpretation, which is dictated by the will of the composer.

But there are many emotional moments in the piece itself where a dialogue just goes a totally different direction because a piano does speak very softly or the violin has a great moment and, you know, the bow is in perfect shape and we can run off in a presto. So there are many aspects which give you the impression, the illusion of improvising.

Mr. ORKIS: And, look, we've done this for now a year, a year and a half, and we're still changing things.

SIEGEL: Is there an example on the sonata disc, which is a good example of something that illustrates what you were just talking about.

Ms. MUTTER: I think slow movements, especially, parts of the sonatas which change the most in a given moment, on a given evening. Like for example slow movement of (unintelligible) 454.

(Soundbite of Mozart)

SIEGEL: Tell us about this.

Ms. MUTTER: So that's, you know, that's the theme introduced by the violin. And Lambert's is hanging in there waiting for his time to come.

Mr. ORKIS: But there's small spacing things, which change from night to night. It's not quite metronomic.

Ms. MUTTER: Yeah. I mean this is what the Greek called agrogic. You know, it's just the way you use time in order to bring life to either a spoken phrase or this is now the piano taking over.

SIEGEL: It's his turn now.

Ms. MUTTER: Yes.

Mr. ORKIS: Right. And the violin in the background.

Ms. MUTTER: And, you know, it goes backward and forward. It's like a couple who basically does talk about a certain subject and knows what's coming and they're kind of taking the sentences out of each other's mouth.

Mr. ORKIS: And there's a, you know, we're a duet here. We're listening very carefully to each other because it can be small differences depending upon circumstances. And there's so much substance to this music. It doesn't play itself. I'll tell you. Each night we get up there, it's like wow.

Ms. MUTTER: Let's climb the mountain.

Mr. ORKIS: That's right.

SIEGEL: So each night you go up there, you climb the mountain and you, let's see, you're performing a Mozart sonata and -

Ms. MUTTER: Five each evening.

SIEGEL: Five each evening. And in the middle of each of them, you hear somebody going -

(Soundbite of coughing)

Mr. ORKIS: Oh, we had a good one the other night.


Mr. ORKIS: Oh, it was a, it's one of those wonderful pauses you have in Mozart's music where it's like a comma, and a cell phone went off. And it was just a delicious moment and we just kind of just waited -

Ms. MUTTER: We just waited, you know.

Mr. ORKIS: Just for it to sink in. We thought this is a nice little interlude for cell phone in the middle of -

Ms. MUTTER: I don't make that a habit. You know, we're not encouraging the audience now to wait for these little moments of interlude. It's funny how very often audience doesn't seem to recognize that it goes both ways. They can hear us, but we can hear them, too.

SIEGEL: Anna-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis, thanks very much for the Mozart sonatas and also for talking with us today.

Ms. MUTTER: Great pleasure.

Mr. ORKIS: Pleasure.

(Soundbite of Mozart)

SIEGEL: Violinist Anna-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis have recorded four CDs for their album of Mozart violin sonatas. You can hear more music at

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.