Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Superb Violinist in a Strapless Gown

Written by:  Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins 
and Angela Newgren

 Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the premier violinists of our time. Born in Rheinbelden, Germany in 1963, Mutter started performing in her early teen years, when she was asked by conductor Herbert Von Karajan to play with the Berlin Philharmonic at age 13.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Starting off her stage career at such a young age did her well. From then to now she has taught, recorded albums, conducted, and performed worldwide.

She picked up some no-big-deal awards on the way, too;
Denmark's Sonning award in 2001, Herbert Von Karajan Music Prize in 2003, several Grammy awards, including Best Chamber Music Performance in 2000 (Beethoven Violin Sonatas) and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with an orchestra) 3 times (!) from 1994-2005...shall I go on?

Anne-Sophie Mutter also owns (and plays on!) some pretty cool violins. She owns two Stradivarius violins- the Emiliani Stradivarius of 1703, and Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius of 1710.

The Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius 1710 

Emiliani Stradivarius 1703
So far we have an extremely talented violinist who has won many prestigious awards, owns and plays on two Stradivarius violins-what more could there possibly be?! 

First a game! Can you find something odd about this picture? (no cheating). I'll give you a hint: it's breaking a stereotype....
Anne-Sophie Mutter

Answer: The fine tuners! Do you notice how her instrument has a fine tuner on the A string as well as on the E string? Awesome! Many violinists shy away from putting fine tuners on any string besides the E, but why? (Fine Tuners Blog)

Anne-Sophie Mutter has also had some difficulties with shoulder rests. Looking at photos of her in concerts, recordings and performances, I noticed that sometimes she used a shoulder rest, sometimes a thin cloth, and sometimes nothing at all. I found out that she felt the need to change shoulder rests because of the uncomfortable positions she was dealing with. After experimenting with all sorts of ideas, she now prefers not to use any at all. Here is a quote from an interview given by Laurie Niles on

Anne Sophie Mutter on shoulder rests: "There is no real rule one can apply, because it all depends on the neck length and the position of your shoulder. Most important is that you don't squeeze your shoulder up, that you don't pressure your chin down, because you'll get terrible muscle pains in your neck area. Basically the instrument has to just lie there and you put your head on the chinrest and that's it. There's no force involved. According to the particular needs of the body, everyone has to play as relaxed as you can."

So Anne-Sophie Mutter found her most relaxed, comfortable way of playing: with no shoulder rest at all. Maybe her clothes give her enough padding on her shoulder?

Nope! (And here is another broken stereotype) Since Anne-Sophie Mutter turned 17 years old, she has had John Galliano (a disgraced former designer for Christian Dior) personally design strapless gowns for her performances. This actually created quite a controversy in the beginning, since many critics and classical musicians thought it was somehow distracting or distasteful. Thank you, Ms. Mutter, for breaking the mold and allowing for more freedom of expression and movement! She says she feels great in the gowns, which helps her perform.  They are almost all the same design and pattern, differing only in color. (When you find something that works, stick with it!) Here's to hoping Dior has another designer she can work with.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Do you think us lady violin players could have our own French clothes designer for musical purposes? Maybe if we played like Anne-Sophie Mutter!

Are you a violinist or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins!


  1. The use of a two adjusters for both E & A strings was not unusual in Europe in the 1950's/1960's. Soloists found it advantageous to use steel E and A strings for brilliance and quick response in concerti (Thomastik range, still available), while the D and G were covered gut (Pirastro) for richness when the piece when into that register. With the almost ubiquitous use of synthetic core strings, that type of stringing has become redundant. However, being more responsive to peg movement, it is surprising more soloists do not use tuning tailpieces for ease of use - Yuri Bashmet does on his viola, for example. I predict we will see more as players lose their blinkered 'only for students' attitude to tuning tailpieces.
    Andrew Bellis, Bournemouth U.K.

  2. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. Lady has been performing with strapless gowns for decades now, and has become her trademark. Doesn't hurt that she is very beautiful. Has it interfered with her playing? No.