At the beginning of next month, violinist Anne-Sofie Mutter and her accompanist, pianist Lambert Orkis, will return to San Francisco to perform their tenth recital for San Francisco Performances (SFP). In recognition of the birth of Polish composer Witold Lutosławski on January 25, 1913, the 100th birthday of the composer will be honored with a performance of his 1984 partita, originally composed for violinist Pinchas Zuckerman and pianist Mark Neikrug. This has become one of the better-established works of recent modernism in the current repertoire; and, at the beginning of this year, harmonia mundi re-released its recording of a performance by violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Ewa Kupiec in their mid-price series called Musique D’Abord (music at first sight).
As a modernist Lutosławski is probably best known for the technique he called “controlled aleatoricism,” leaving elements of a composition to chance under some well-defined set of constraints. In the eighteenth century a partita movement would often be followed by a “double” that would provide the performer with opportunities to improvise around the original content. In this eighteenth-century spirit Lutosławski’s partita consists of three movements with ad libitum sections separating the movements. Thus, rather than constraining the violinist with a “double,” these sections leave the improvisations to chance and the imagination of the performer. The result is highly imaginative; and, once the listener appreciates “the rules of the game,” it is also highly accessible.
Mutter and Orkis will introduce their audience to eighteenth-century thinking, so to speak, by beginning their program with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 379 sonata in G major. This is a relatively mature work, composed in Vienna in 1781. In this sonata Mozart distanced himself from not only the partita form of his ancestors but also the sonata conventions of his contemporaries. It begins with an extended Adagio introduction to a relatively conventional “sonata form” movement, which is then followed only by a set of five variations on a theme, followed by a coda return to the theme. This relatively forward-looking approach to sonata will be followed by Franz Schubert’s D. 934 C major fantasie, whose structural architecture shows unmistakable signs of “family resemblance” to K. 379. Both of these compositions will precede the Lutosławski partita, after which the program will conclude with Camille Saint-Saëns’ Opus 75 sonata in D minor.
This recital will take place at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 4, in Davies Symphony Hall (201 Van Ness Avenue at the northwest corner of Grove Street). Tickets are on sale for $93, $82, $69, $61, $59, $49, $39, $34, and $15. Further information may be obtained from SFP at 415-392-2545. Tickets may also be purchased through the Web page for this event.