Bach and Gounod's Ave Maria has always held a special place in violinist Anne Akiko Meyers' repertoire: she grew up playing the beloved work. "It's just one of the most beautiful pieces," Meyers shared during her August 16 Impromptu performance with pianist Marta Aznavoorian. Meyers visited WFMT ahead of her Sunday evening performance of Barber's Piano Concerto at Ravinia Festival with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.
One of the most gifted violinists of her generation, Anne Akiko Meyers embodies what a virtuoso violinist should be as a powerful interpreter of beloved repertoire that spans centuries and yet poised to open that same repertoire to new music, serving as a vanguard in what has traditionally been a guarded space.
When violinist Anne Akiko Meyers started getting the music for a new violin concerto that she had commissioned from composer Adam Schoenberg, she was in for a rather major surprise.
"The first movement was all done in scordatura, which was a first for me," said Meyers. In other words, Schoenberg's music required that she tune one of the strings of her famous 1741 "Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesù down an entire step. Specifically, the G string would be tuned down to an F. "I thought, what am I supposed to do with this? What happens? Do you read the music the same way? Or do I need a crash course on how to play the violin in the key of F, with an F string?"
Meyers floated in, 1741 “Vieuxtemps” del Gesù in hand, wearing a voluminous gown in a soft black, its overlaid geometric pattern a seeming nod to the hall’s distinctive woodwork. Vieaux, also in black, took his seat and with a quick smile between them, they jumped into the music. An arrangement of Arcangelo Corelli’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12, “La Folia,” with variations headed the program. Fleet fingerwork in both instruments marked the players as virtuosos, but the variations that showcased the artists at their best allowed Vieaux to indulge in a little head bobbing, as he navigated his guitar with astonishing ease, and Meyers to pull a sultry voice from her del Gesù.
If anyone can make the parts cohere [in Barber’s Violin Concerto], it’s the brilliant and resourceful violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who joins conductor Tito Muñoz and the Symphony Silicon Valley as soloist. Also on the program is a new work by the young American composer Adam Schoenberg, along with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.
More and more women are breaking barriers in all aspects of the music industry. J. Jill has brought together an eclectic group of artists including Anne Akiko Meyers, Olga Kern, and Patricia Price —the trailblazers, the firsts, the remarkable and revered to learn what they love about music and being on stage (or backstage or behind the lens), what inspires their day to day, and what they won’t go on tour without.
Contrary to the misguided and musty reputation often bestowed upon classical music, this art form is very much alive — and in the hands of many talented and creative musicians ushering it forward. That’s why WQXR is kicking off 2019 by introducing “19 for 19,” a group of artists we love that includes long-time heroes, established favorites and newcomers set for stardom.