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'Being a musician about reaching out to others'
By Li Anlan

VIOLIN virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter made her international debut at the age of 13, and the next year the German rising star performed with the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan.

Over more than 35 years, Mutter has become one of the most distinguished performers of her time.

On June 12, Mutter will stage a concert of classical works at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, cooperating with Mutter's Virtuosi, the ensemble she founded in 2011.

The program will feature Mendelssohn's "Octet in E-Flat Major" and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."

The Virtuosi are comprising of 14 current and former scholarship students of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, which also commissions works. The latest, "Ring Tone Variations" for violin and double bass, premiered this year.

Mutter discussed the upcoming performance with Shanghai Daily in an e-mail interview.

Q: Why Mendelssohn and Vivaldi?

A: Mendelssohn's "Octet" is one of the most significant chamber music pieces ever written. Take particular note of the slow movement, as well as the scherzo that he used in almost all his later works. This kind of fluent virtuosity, which you find in the violin concerto as well as in the piano trio, is something he invented when he was very young.

Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" is in everyone's repertoire of favorites for good reason. The "Sonnets" that the composer wrote and set to music give both orchestra and soloist a great opportunity to express their artistic visions, colors and technical skills.

Q: How do you work with composers?

A: Composers usually have no instructions, except which musicians will play the work, whether piano trio, orchestra, or other ensemble. Other than that, I give them total artistic freedom and I believe strongly that an interpreter never should interfere with the composer.

But after receiving the score, we try to solve all the technical issues. Only in very rare cases have I come back to the composer and made some significant changes out of technical necessity.

Q: Tell us about Mutter's Virtuosi?

A: Making music together is of utmost benefit for a musician, experienced, inexperienced, older, younger, from different cultural backgrounds. Only by communicating in music that we really get under the skin of the composition and learn from each other.

I greatly look forward to bringing my scholars from all over the world to Shanghai, such an interesting, buzzing and artistically important place. I have strong emotional bonds with all my students and we find time for private things like the cinema, the theater, and having fun, on and off stage.

Q: Some say it's inevitable that the appearance of female instrumentalists is dissected. Your view?

A: When my career started at a very early age - I was only 13 when detected by Herbert von Karajan - looks and image back in the late seventies have not really meant anything in the world of music.

I have never really thought about appearance. I do think, though, that aesthetics go a long way. It is nice to look at someone like Herbert von Karajan or Carlos Kleiber, who have a wonderful way of moving and expressing music and are also good looking.

So it comes together. Why not admire that?

Q: .If you weren't a musician, what would you be?

A: I really don't know. Music has been such a central part of my life because with music you also can do so much good for society.

I have built many orphanages over the years and given many, many benefit concerts. I gave one for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake (2008) and more recently fore victims of the tsunami in Japan.

Being a musician is not only about fulfilling your own musical goals but also about reaching out to others, to the audience and to humanity in general, trying to make the world a better place for all of us.

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