Classical music will not die, but its rituals must change. How Anne-Sophie loves ‘Star Wars’ and saves the world

  • John Williams, the world’s most famous film music writer, created a violin concerto for the famous German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.
  • Mutter is a big fan of Star Wars and wanted to work with Williams for a long time
  • The violinist is a big proponent of breaking stereotypes about classical music. He thinks this music should reach new listeners
  • The younger generation, he says, no longer wants to be crammed into a dark coffin forbidden at eight in the evening, and then released two hours later.
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Unusually for this time of year, we have to start with gingerbread. At the moment it’s not even available in Munich and probably won’t taste that good anyway. The sun rises high over Bogenhausen. Perhaps this is where the most valuable gingerbread in music history comes from. And so it all began.

Several years ago, international violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter met international composer John Williams. It was at the Tanglewood Festival, the summer musical haven of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Andre Previn, film composer, conductor, and Anne-Sophie Mutter’s second husband and best friend Williams met. Anne-Sophie Mutter has fulfilled the dream of her life.

As she will admit today, she has always been a fan of “Star Wars”. In 1978, at the age of 15, she sat at the cinema in the Black Forest. What she heard – long after Herbert von Karajan’s music made her take the violin – became part of her emotional home, and part of the soundtrack of her life.

She, as Williams quickly learned in Tanglewood, is not a woman to be denied. Especially after she gave him gingerbread in Munich, and he promised her that he would write one note for every gingerbread she sent him.

In the end, the piece he wrote for them turned out to be a little longer. Eight minutes is good. They were called “tags”. It is Williams’ first piece for violin and orchestra since the Violin Concerto in 1976, which he wrote as an obituary for his first wife.

And since Anne Sophie Motter is truly undeniable, Williams began arranging her episodes of “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” and “Harry Potter.” Meanwhile, five years ago, they started talking about a new violin concerto.

In fact, the “tags” were supposed to be built slowly, but here’s the coronavirus. Hollywood was falling into an epidemic dream, and suddenly John Williams had a lot of free time. This resulted in a true four-movement No. 2 Violin Concerto, an image of a restless woman fighting for musical beauty, impassioned canto, and written improvisation.

This is a reshapeable piece to stay with Harry Potter. We will find him, Shostakovich and Debussy. Williams does not attach one beautiful paragraph to another, nor does his great predecessor Eric Wolfgang Korngold quote himself. Concert is absolute music.

A soundtrack fanatic won’t hear this is a composition by Williams, who also wrote concertos for bassoon, tuba, cello, clarinet, and oboe, but he’ll recognize the composer in his superb format. The concert is a finesse, you’ll never feel like it’s the work of a 90-year-old.

Anne-Sophie Mutter said at our meeting in Munich that she could not deceive him. The maestro mastered all musical dialects. He knows the limits of each instrument better than any other contemporary composer.

He was muttering and Williams was constantly talking. And the violinist asserts that Williams, as the violinist asserts, is more precise in his compositions, even in arrangements, than Bruckner in his symphonies”—a man of impulse, in the best sense of the word.

Technically speaking, the path is very demanding. The speed readings made my hair a little frizzy on my head. Here, too, Williams is following good tradition. Anne-Sophie Mutter says she has once again proven the trueness of a sentence once said by French composer Pierre Boulez that “a composer always hears a piece in his head faster than he plays it later”.

This was the moment I cut short his work. On other occasions, she followed what Richard Strauss once said to a trumpeter: “I compose, you play.” Of course, that wasn’t quite the case.

He loves standing next to the maestro. On stage, in the studio. Everyone is happy about this – the orchestra and the audience. It is John Williams that is needed by epidemic-stricken classical music, which is now gradually recovering. It is he who sees that the boundaries between popular and classical music are completely blurred.

He is also the person who ultimately embodies what Anne-Sophie Mutter wants to achieve. The violinist wants to move toward a broader understanding of music; towards embracing the full range of musical language. Far from dogma, far from confinement, from ritual prison.

As he says, we live differently today than we did in the 1970s, which is why we need different formats, different concert halls. Halls such as the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall in Hamburg, which is already an event from an architectural point of view. “The young generation no longer wants to be cramped in a dark coffin that is forbidden at eight in the evening and released after two hours,” he says.

Elbphilharmonie in HamburgElbphilharmonie in Hamburg – © Creative Commons

People want to have fun and then they go to the restaurant for dinner. Concert halls, especially in Munich, are the perfect meeting place for all tastes, expectations and lifestyles. According to Anne-Sophie Mutter, classical music will not die, but the way it is performed will.

The violinist is a supporter of other forms, she plans to give concerts in clubs, in the open air. He wants to speak to an existing audience, interact, but sometimes deters him with imaginary barriers to concert halls. John Williams, his music, and his joy of life can help with that.

Anne Sophie strung strong. She is committed to the causes she fights for – she works at the Cancer Foundation and works with talented young musicians. During the pandemic, she has traveled through villages and played music in church services, nursing homes and nursing homes with scholarship holders.

Monika Grotters, Germany’s culture minister at the time, sent out a diagram showing what actually happens when a concert or tour is canceled and how many lives it counts. The campaign led to open culture during lockdown. It didn’t help much, unfortunately, the culture was the first to close and the last to reopen. But fans of classical music in Germany were raucous at least at the time. Louder than the classical musicians themselves who usually like to play their bubbles on their own.

Now Mutter organizes concerts for Ukraine. And I was a little appalled by the fact that once Putin started the war with Ukraine, those politicians who questioned the systemic importance of culture, especially classical music, suddenly stormed into charity concerts. “Suddenly, music is important again,” she says.

But yes, he adds, the politicians are right. Music will survive “because it is a form of nonverbal communication that connects us deeply.” Living music together makes it easier to “understand yourself as beings with equal interests and rights.” Only in music do we finally experience reconciliation with all that is human. Regret, pain, joy and hope, all we can feel, think, and create. And no one is ever left out. “Music is the perfect state of the world,” says Timt.

It’s time to end the meeting. Stradivarius is waiting in the corridor. Anne-Sophie Mutter needs to move forward quickly. He has to save the world, the musician and all the rest. May the force be with her.

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