What are your favorite violin sonatas?

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter on Corona: "Unfortunately, the virtual world doesn't help us"

The star violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is world famous. On the occasion of the Beethoven anniversary year, she went on a world tour with the composer's violin sonatas. She had to cancel it because of Corona, also because she was sick herself. She has just been awarded the Opus-Klassik in Berlin for her recordings of John Williams' film music.

The American composer, who wrote the film scores for blockbusters such as "The Jaws", "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter", among others, also gave the laudation for Anne-Sophie Mutter at the award ceremony. In her acceptance speech, the violinist pointed out the precarious situation of musicians in Corona times and appealed to politicians to provide more help. Gero Schliess spoke to the star violinist about Corona, her cultural-political commitment and her turn to film music.

Deutsche Welle: You have been one of the stars of the international music world for 40 years. You are honored many times and you know the music business through and through. How did you experience the crash of musical life due to the corona outbreak?

Anne-Sophie Mutter: In February, when I was still a guest in Japan, I was the last international artist to visit the country when Corona was already around. We had already played in front of an audience that was completely masked. I really admired the discipline of the listeners. We will only get out of the pandemic somewhat healthy through extreme mutual consideration.

In the Corona summer, Anne-Sophie Mutter performed open air with the Berlin State Opera - it was conducted by Daniel Barenboim

The corona virus caught me myself in March. I was tired and my children said, mom, you are never tired, you must be sick. I went to the doctor and to my great surprise I was quarantined for two weeks. And then slowly the concerts broke away. This turned into a long pause. I only started to play again in September.

Culture suffers like no other industry - the cultural organizers are only allowed to fill their halls half or quarter full. Do you understand that?

It is painful to have to watch this unequal treatment and, despite requests and pleadings, not to be heard from the relevant control centers. I have absolutely no understanding of why people in Bavaria were recently able to serve roast pork and beer for 1,000 people at the Nockherberg. I think it's great when people have fun and still keep their distance and safety.

But then a cabaret artist comes on stage and all but 200 have to leave the hall. That lacks any logic. I find this unequal treatment outrageous. But nothing happens, because perhaps there is also no awareness that there are so many other people and many other jobs attached to a musician.

It starts with the agent, continues with the organizer - all the way to the lady in the cloakroom. There are so many. Unfortunately, mostly solo self-employed who participate directly or indirectly in the life of a musician. That means we're also big employers. And the economic turnover that the music industry generated was 13.6 billion euros in 2019, which you can't just downplay now.

On the other hand, people in China like to decorate themselves with good Beethoven events and German music, as a trailblazer for diplomatic discussions. If we don't cultivate culture now, it will be irretrievably decimated to such an extent that nothing will be left of Germany's cultural landscape.

Before Corona: Anne-Sophie Mutter at a concert in Munich 2019

You said you wanted to take on public office. Is that serious?

No, I never said I wanted to take up an office. I was asked if I would take one. And then I said "yes" boldly. I hope that the Minister of State for Culture, Ms. Grütters, does not see this as a declaration of war - it is not meant in any way. When the opportunity comes and the time is right, it might make sense to also heave an insider into such a position.

I am in close contact with Ms. Grütters and I know about her efforts and I hope that we are not yet at the end of the relief measures. If I look to Bavaria and have understood correctly, then the Bavarian Corona Help for solo self-employed musicians is exhausted after three months and the payment of 3,000 euros. What do I do with 3,000 euros from March to the end of the year?

You are definitely considered influential, your voice is heard: Have you ever thought of calling the Chancellor?

Ms. Grütters is responsible for this and I think that she will do her best to improve the situation further. I'm counting on that. And if that's not the case, then we have to take to the streets, then we refuse.

You can come to terms with the fact that you can only see a small group of people during a lockdown, because it is important for the bigger picture. But is there any consolation in the moment? It's the art, the music, my favorite song, a nice book or great films.

Ms. Grütters initially had the misjudgment - she has since corrected that - that it is wonderful that we can now all move around the internet so freely and post so much. It's wonderful to see the music. Yes, it might be wonderful to post something from time to time to stay in touch with the outside world. But of course that is not survival. At most for artists with five million clicks and large advertising partners who join YouTube. But that is only the case in the case of classical music in exceptional cases. So the virtual world, unfortunately, doesn't help us.

How will musical life continue after the Corona crisis? Fewer concerts, fewer listeners, or maybe less money?

The Siemens Festival Nights: Some of the events of the Salzburg Festival 2020 also took place outside

I found it very courageous and wonderful what Salzburg created. Salzburg showed us at the festival that you can perform in a checkerboard pattern and through consistent, regular testing of all people in this company. Even with a number of people in the audience that goes well over 200. In this way, the organizer can at least cover his costs to some extent.

I think we will have an audience that feels and needs music much more intensely. I noticed that in the few concerts I played that fall. Then you really know that the listener has come especially for this evening, for this program. Then we get the signal from the audience: Yes, you are part of our life.

May I ask you personally: would you accept less fees?

We musicians do that all the time. Especially in the Corona period we play two concerts in the evening, which mathematically means that our fee is reduced by 50 percent. In addition, the fees have of course plummeted, simply because the organizer no longer has the income. And of course we work together and want to help each other.

I have always considered it extremely important that as an artist, outside of your profession, you contribute meaningfully to the community and society. And that's why benefit concerts are extremely important to me. That is why my foundation for the promotion of talented musicians is very important to me, into which all my prize money goes.

Anne-Sophie Mutter in October 2020 at the award ceremony of the Opus Klassik in Berlin

You were recently awarded the Opus Klassik in Berlin, one of countless prizes that you have received - including the Grammy Award four times. Does that still touch you, can you still be happy?

To my surprise, John Williams gave the laudatory speech at Opus Klassik. That was sent via video message. He said something like that making music with me was one of the most beautiful moments in his life.

Of course, that means a lot to me when a great musician, especially one of the greatest composers of our time, appreciates me artistically and perhaps also personally. A prize like this is always something wonderful because it puts the music at the center for a moment in front of millions of television viewers. It is hoped that politicians will also listen more closely so that they know that many other professions and livelihoods depend on musicians.

In the last few years there has been talk of diversity and racism everywhere in culture. How do you perceive these changes?

There have been a handful of female conductors from 1920 to the present day. This is a century of work. We are making progress, but I do not want to hide the fact that there is also racism in the classical music industry, and that is what we need to talk about. You have to intervene if you are and will be a witness.

Can you give examples?

I don't want to go into details, but I've always stood up for musicians. For me, of course, it doesn't matter at all what the cultural or religious background of a person is in general, but in the case of a musician it depends on the talent, on the personality. And I am very happy that in my foundation I am able to promote musicians who have great talents.

But there is the case, for example, that agencies are of the opinion that if they have you - let's say a trumpeter from Korea - then that's enough. As if you have a hodgepodge of marbles and you say you have striped marbles and then you need them we have more spotted marbles and then we are missing a green marble. Of course it doesn't work that way.

Anne-Sophie Mutter was the 2019 winner of the Praemium Imperiale, a Japanese cultural award that has been awarded since 1989

We are currently also hearing new tones from Anne-Sophie Mutter: the film music by John Williams. Is it about interest in a new repertoire or is it simply about tapping new audiences and buyers?

I played contemporary music back in 1986. Great composers wrote works for me. To me, John Williams is another great contemporary composer who writes film music. Film music is nothing more than contemporary music, especially since I'm a hardcore Star Wars fan and I think that this is also very much related to this leitmotif music.

Like all great composers, John Williams has the ability to write in a way that appears to be accessible and easy to understand. But if you dig a little deeper into the matter, you can see the refinement of harmony. You can see the tremendous knowledge of the instruments and the orchestra.

There is a video of you with Schubert's trout quintet. The title is: Classic makes you happy. Is that correct? Is it that easy?

I don't know who the headline is from, but I would sign it anytime. There are of course other things that make you happy, but music is a huge gift. This also includes shared experiences. This 'experiencing something together' or 'creating something together' is what makes music a wonderful means of communication or a hobby.

What else makes Anne-Sophie Mutter happy?

My children, of course. When my children are in the hall, everything is there that is very close to me. But I'm also happy when the sun shines. Or when I see a beautiful, colorful sheet of paper. I think musicians tend to experience life extremely intensely. That's nice in the happy moments. But very exhausting in the tragic moments.

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