Brahms: Double Concerto & C. Schumann: Piano Trio

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Pablo Ferrández

Brahms: Double Concerto & C. Schumann: Piano Trio

When the eminent German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter first heard the cellist Pablo Ferrández play, she immediately knew that something special was happening. “I was very touched by Pablo’s playing from the first moment,” Mutter tells Apple Music. “There’s so much personal fire and vulnerability in his playing, something you find rarely in any generation.” A onetime youthful prodigy herself, Mutter made her first recording at age 15 with the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. So, she is ideally placed to recognize exceptional talent when she sees it and has become something of a mentor to Ferrández, who has played in her elite ensemble Mutter’s Virtuosi. The artistic chemistry between the pair is strikingly captured in their first album together, coupling a fiery take on Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio. For Ferrández, playing Brahms with an established superstar like Mutter brought challenges like none that he had previously encountered. “With Ms. Mutter, every note has an intention—she has a thousand colors and a very clear idea of what she wants to do,” he adds. “But that idea can change between Monday and Wednesday, so I wanted to be as close as possible to that process, ready to react and offer something back. Of course, I was nervous, but the way she plays is what I have been looking for myself since I was a student. When you see and hear it firsthand, it’s like the best master class I could ever have.” Spontaneity and the quick-fire swapping of ideas are keynotes of the duo’s Brahms performance, and Mutter is quick to credit conductor Manfred Honeck for his role in igniting the collaboration. “We were extremely fortunate in having Manfred next to us in a concerto which is so densely orchestrated,” she says. “The ability to listen to each other is what makes music so special and a training ground for social behavior and emotional intelligence. Manfred works very hard on those inner voices in the orchestra, letting them be heard when often they are not. That is what makes a great musical collaboration.” Mutter hears plenty of robust dialogue in Brahms’ Double Concerto, where the solo violin and cello have two distinctive musical personalities. “It has a wonderful scope of contradictory emotions and characters,” she explains. “It’s like bringing two friends together, violin and cello, and making them one without filing off their edges—allowing the cello to keep its stormy, heroic moments, along with the more tender characteristics of the violin.” And although Ferrández had performed the Double Concerto a number of times before, it was only when he played it with Mutter that the music finally snapped into focus. “To begin with, I thought it was a strange piece, and it took me a while to get comfortable with it. Now it’s my favorite work. I love to play it!” The choice of Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio as a coupling for the Concerto is bold and something of a revelation. Clara’s music has long stood in the shadow of her husband, Robert’s, but Ferrández insists that she was anything but a pale imitation. “Her music is not a copy of Robert; she is her own personality completely,” he says. Mutter, too, detects in Clara’s rarely played Piano Trio clear evidence of a major talent bursting to find expression. “It’s the music of a woman who wants to get out of her prison,” she says. “She loved Robert dearly, and she was a housewife and a mother for him. But it was impossible for her to be her own woman and be relieved of all these duties. In the way she treats her musical ideas, I can feel her yearning to be free and do her own thing.” The experience of recording Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio has, Mutter and Ferrández agree, whetted their appetite for further collaborations. “We are dreaming of more chamber music projects with someone like the pianist Daniil Trifonov,” says Mutter. “The Tchaikovsky Piano Trio, for example. That would be wonderful.”

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