By Leonne Lewis
Anne Akiko Meyers gives transcendent and breathtaking performances in this new release of works by Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), Karol Szymanowski and Maurice Ravel – using her Ex-Vieuxtemps 1741 Guarneri del Gesu - with beautifully crafted support from the Philharmonia Orchestra under Kristjan Jarvi.
Szymanowski’s first violin concerto, Op. 35, Ravel’s Tzigane and Rautavaara’s Fantasia all have the element of fantasy and rhapsodic sweep, particularly Fantasia which Meyers commissioned and premiered in March of this year with the Kansas City Symphony. While this celebrated Finnish composer’s works may not be well known to American audiences, Rautavaara’s early studies did include The Juilliard School with Vincent Persichetti and Roger Sessions.
One may detect in his writing hints of countryman Sibelius with overtones of The Swan of Tuonela, for example, but Rautavaara’s compositional style seems to contain a unique, lush and brooding landscape of intertwining melodies and imitative sequences between violin and orchestra.
From the opening chord, the listener enters a sound world that is absolutely mesmerizing for its dark, overlapping textures where demure to red-hot melodic waves of sonority from brass and strings provide a backdrop of atmospheric tension for Meyer’s flowing passagework. Her tone takes on an ethereal quality that goes right to the heart and core of the work’s veil of mystery.
She also displays an affinity for Szymanowski’s violin concerto (1916), an impressive piece of orchestrated splashes, clashes, interludes of harp, winds, especially flutes and an opening Vivace Assai that conjures up the opening temperament of Ravel’s piano concerto in G major. This composer’s Mazurkas for piano, among other compositions are worth a listen.
Meyer’s account contains a kinda introspective elusivity that includes lingering slides AND a display of turbocharged fingerwork in the Cadenza that has the characteristics of a Paganini Caprice gone avant-garde – of which we might also thank Polish violinist Paul Kochanski for input to this work, to whom it is dedicated.
Meyer’s declamatory bow strokes in the opening of Tzigane combined with rhythmic punch and rich harmonics brought this gypsy inspired work to a frenzied conclusion. It’s not often that collaboration between orchestra and soloist is so perfectly matched but supernova violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Kristjan Jarvi have hit a home run, even a grand slam with this recording!