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Anne-Sophie Gives an Award (and I was there)

Sunday was a big day for the brilliant young Slovakian contrabassist Roman Patkoló.  First, he played two new works commissioned especially for him by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation–Duo concertante for Violin and Contrabass by Krzysztof Penderecki and Dyade for violin and contrabass by Wolfgang Rihm–at Avery Fisher Hall with the dazzling Frau Mutter on violin. Then, after the concert, Mutter presented him with the first ever Aida Stucki Award, a new honor for gifted musicians named for her beloved childhood teacher.

“Aida is 90 now and we wanted to do something to honor her while she is still around to enjoy it,” Mutter told me.  “Good teachers don’t always get the recognition they deserve.  She was a wonderful violinist, one of the last students of Carl Flesch, and a keeper of that pedagogical tradition which she passed on to me.”

Mutter says the Foundation does not plan to give the award–which has a 10,000 euros prize–annually because “that would put too much pressure on us to find somebody deserving every year and be too time-consuming.”  Her plan is to give the award whenever she finds a young musician she believes deserves a little extra recognition and support–something she has been doing for a long time. Roman Patkoló is hardly a new discovery–her Foundation has been helping him since 1999.

I had a chance to ask Mutter a question I’ve always wondered about which is why she has been the most steadfast and enthusiastic supporter of new music among the top roster of violinists.  “I like to challenge myself and a lot of new music is like learning a new language,” she says.  “Older works can be challenging too but I love having the ability to work directly with composers, to sit down with them, and understand what they are trying to say.  Imagine having the opportunity to sit down with Mozart.”

Personally, I’d rather spend another hour or two with Anne-Sophie Mutter.