What: Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mutterissimo (Deutsche Grammophon)
Rating: 4/5
Verdict: German violinist selects favourites for fans in her new double-disc sampler

Deutsche Grammophon certainly appreciates almost four decades of recording Anne-Sophie Mutter.

In 2011, fans of the German violinist with a few hundred dollars to spare were offered an almost sinfully luxurious 40-CD extravaganza, ASM 35: The Complete Musician.

This was a miracle of the designer's art in its packaging alone, complete with a generous 300-page book; on the music side, we were reminded that Mutter has lent her luscious tone to such 20th century greats as Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Sofia Gubaidulina.


Her new two-disc Mutterissimo, despite the nudgy superlative of its title and however attractive its contents, is very much the cadet version with no evidence of her personal interest in the contemporary, as quoted on the back cover.

The first CD selects movements from various concerto recordings, with 1931 vintage Stravinsky the only nod to the modern among the expected Brahms, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

Mutter's cream-laden Korngold is a suitably tempting opener and few violinists could rival her sparkling finale from the Dvorak concerto, even if one misses it emerging, so magically, after the final whispered chords of the work's Adagio.

The second disc explores the short and sweet, apart from an insinuatingly lovely and full-length Prokofiev sonata, with her favourite pianist Lambert Orkis.

The two have immense fun with a couple of Hungarian Dances by Brahms and tease the gemutlichkeit out of a Kreisler lollipop. Andre Previn takes over on the ivories for some delicious Mendelssohn and Gershwin.

The standout track, at a mere 1'37" is the popular Jamaican Rumba by the Australian Arthur Benjamin. On DVD, in a 2015 concert at Berlin's uber-hip nightclub Neue Heimat, Mutter and Orkis radiated fire; on CD the flames still flash.

What: Meredith Monk, On Behalf of Nature (ECM, through Ode Records)
Rating: 5/5
Verdict: Isle of musical enchantment tributes our increasingly threatened environment

If Meredith Monk describes her music as folk music from another planet, then her latest release, On Behalf of Nature suggests that it may come from the heavenly equivalent of Shakespeare's enchanted isle.

At 74, Monk is one of America's leading composers. She may draw on the same power of repetition that you hear from minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich, but her voice is joyously independent; she's happiest, I suspect, singing with her own vocal ensemble, as she does on this disc.

She says On Behalf of Nature is "a meditation on our intimate connection to nature, its inner structures, the fragility of its ecology and our interdependence."

All this is achieved in 19 tracks, ranging from just under a minute to a smidgen over six. Its half-dozen singers are accompanied by four instrumentalists who underscore the voices with everything from Burmese whistles, Brazilian friction drum and toy glockenspiels to violin, clarinet, harp and piano.

Monk credits the influence of the bricolage techniques of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss behind her hypnotic pieces of musical patchwork. It's a mesmerising weave. While two pieces explore aspects of dark and light with shimmering radiance, 56 seconds of wild vocal slides and yelps lead to another track that bubbles away in its own funky groove, with darting intimations of chaos around its borders.

Three years ago, I found Monk's Piano Songs album tough going and, despite the eloquent pianism of Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker, severely wanting in tonal variety and incident. On Behalf of Nature is quite the opposite, its staggering range of colours and textures a perfectly catching the endless diversity of the natural world around us. And it's a message with a new urgency in these times of Trump.