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New Classical Tracks: Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams rework classic Hollywood themes

Anne-Sophie Mutter The Japan Art Association/The Sankei Shimbun
4min 59sec : New Classical Tracks: Anne-Sophie Mutter
27min 31sec : New Classical Tracks: Anne-Sophie Mutter (extended)

Anne-Sophie Mutter/The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles/John Williams — Across the Stars (Deutsche Grammophon)

Editor's note: Since this interview was originally conducted, Anne-Sophie Mutter has announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19.

Anne-Sophie Mutter grew up in the Black Forest, where Germany, Switzerland and France meet. It's a beautiful place, but there wasn't a lot for a teenager to do. So, she played her violin, she played soccer and she went to the cinema.

"In 1978, Star Wars came to the Black Forest. I should remember the images, but really what hit in my mind more than the breathtaking images was the music: the leitmotifs of Princess Leia and Yoda. Everything was so beautifully crafted and colorful and with incredible emotional depth and fantasy and understanding of orchestration. I was just totally blown away."

Looking back, did you ever imagine you might be performing some of John Williams' music with him conducting an arrangement?

"Absolutely not. That is as far away as the galaxies in which Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are living.

"When I met John Williams some seven or eight years ago at the grounds of the Tanglewood Music Festival, I was, of course, very starstruck. And right away I dared to ask him if he one day would consider — of course, my dream still is that he would write a violin concerto for me — and he very charmingly explained that he was just way too busy. I wasn't surprised that he would turn it down.

"So, time passed. And then one day Markings arrived at my doorstep. I didn't know that Christmas cookies would have such an effect."

You have to share that story, because you had asked him to write something for you, even a few bars. As he tells it, you are not the type of woman to say "no" to. And then he promptly forgot that he had committed to that until those Christmas cookies showed up.

"I mean, who would think about musical bars when you have lebkuchen arrive at your Christmas preparation? And yes, he definitely wrote many more bars than I had sent cookies."

I read a story that the late André Previn, your ex-husband, who was friends with John Williams, told Williams, "You can write anything for Anne-Sophie — she can play anything."

"I don't know why André always was under this impression but, obviously, we knew each other quite well. And it's true that he was kind of a middleman. I never dared to call John Williams on the phone. So, André would eventually call him.

"André suggested as some of his first ideas Dracula, because he remembered that score, and then Cinderella also maybe because André was very aware of my deep-rooted love for jazz.

"I couldn't be happier for all this inspiration. André is present in this project also, because the Hollywood studio in which we recorded with John Williams in April was the place where Andre's life as a Hollywood composer started some 70 years ago."

And this is the studio — Sony Pictures Scoring Stage — where so many iconic film soundtracks were recorded: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind. Did that provide inspiration for you?

"I'm actually glad I only heard about that on day three. I already was so intimidated that it was maybe good that I only heard about Singing in the Rain and, as you said, The Wizard of Oz and also many of the Star Wars scores were recorded in there."

Is it true that you were a Yoda T-shirt for those recording sessions?

"Absolutely — Yoda T-shirt and then a Princess Leia. It says: Don't mess with the princess."

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Anne-Sophie Mutter/The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles/John Williams — Across the Stars (Amazon)

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