Anne Akiko Meyers featured in SLO Symphony's opening night concert

Classical violinist performs on rare and unique instruments

Special to the TribuneOctober 3, 2013 

Anne Akiko Meyers.

COURTESY PHOTO

Anne Akiko Meyers, one of the brighter stars in the classical music world, will be returning to San Luis Obispo on Saturday night to help begin the Symphony’s 2013-2014 season. The all-Russian program will present Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and will feature Meyers in the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2.

Meyers’ gifts are well-known to Central Coast music lovers from her previous turns with our orchestra. But she’s not a local phenomenon: her brilliant Bach recording, “Air: The Bach Album” (eOne Music, 2011), entered the Amazon classical charts at No. 1 and has gotten enthusiastic reviews worldwide — both for the intelligent sensitivity of the playing and for the remarkable instruments she uses.

Meyers has been given exclusive lifetime use of one of the world’s rarest and most valuable musical instruments, the “Ex-Vieuxtemps” Guarneri Del Gesu, made by Cremona in 1741. To hear her play this violin is to experience something truly moving.

In a brief telephone interview, Ms. Meyers spoke of this instrument with awe and protectiveness.

“There are very few of these instruments in existence now, maybe 50. Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifitz played Guarneri Del Gesu violins. Paganini himself played one! Most of them — actually, most violins at this level of quality — are usually locked away in museum display cases and never touched,” she said. “Whenever I see these instruments behind glass, I feel like I’m visiting some sort of zoo. Animals were made to run free, and these instruments were made to be played.”

The individual qualities of the “Ex-Vieuxtemps” Guarneri Del Gesu can best be heard on Meyers’ recording of the Barber Violin Concerto. Her other violins are both Stradivarius: the 1730 “Royal Spanish” and the 1697 “Molitor,” which may have been owned by Napoleon. The Bach album, which is outstanding in many other ways, offers a recording first. Using overdubbing, Meyers played both solo parts of the Double Violin Concerto (BWV 1043), one part on the 1697 instrument and the second on the 1730. Upon first hearing the recording, this listener, ignorant of the CD liner notes, assumed the presence of two different violinists.

“Thank you for saying that!” Meyers replied when I told her my confusion. “Bach is so vast, so passionate a composer, that I feel I could never exhaust his music. There’s no one right way to play him. “Remember, Bach had 20 children. He was vibrantly alive.”

Meyers’ variety of repertoire is another aspect of her musical life. A few years ago, at another October concert, SLO audiences heard her perform three very different varieties of the modern. With equal grace and polish, she offered pieces by Ravel, Vaughn Williams, and Gershwin. The Russian strains of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto should present no trouble. She recorded it for RCA Victor in 1997.

“The solo part is just fierce! It’s got lots of color and intensity, like a journey through wild scenery.” Her discography includes Messiaen, Franck, Takemitsu and Arvo Part; next year, her recording of Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto, premiered last December in Pittsburgh, will come out on eOne. “I love to stay current with music, and Mason Bates’ Concerto is a wonderfully accessible piece — cinematic, expansive, full of rhythmic dynamics.”

IF YOU GO

Classics 1 — From Russia With Love
8 p.m. Saturday
Cohan Center, Cal Poly
$20 to $75
756-4849 or www.pacslo.org

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