G e rman violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, dubbed the Queen of the Violin, compares tackling new works to mountain climbing. But when she tours to Australia, she’ll be revisiting a mountain she first climbed in her youth: Tchaikovsky’s beautiful and formidable Violin Concerto. “The Tchaikovsky, from when I started to play it at the age of 11 or 12 in public, has stayed one of my all-time favourites,” she tells me over the phone from Munich.

Age 11 or 12 is an unusually young age to be performing concertos in public, but Mutter was an unusually precocious child. She got her first taste of the violin from her parents, who were both keen classical music fans. “When they got engaged they gave each other a recording of the Beethoven and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos by Menuhin,” she says. “The house was full of recordings of classical music as well as jazz and I was very fascinated by the sound of a violin.”

While Mutter wished desperately for violin lessons for her fifth birthday, such things weren’t so easy to come by in the small town of Rheinfelden. “I grew up at the foot of the Black Forest, basically,”...

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