Last August, Anne Akiko Meyers was invited to Safeco Field to show Mariner and Red Sox fans that her 1697 Stradivarius violin could rock, "I played the national anthem, by myself, in front of 42,000 fans in Seattle," she says with pride, "Normally you wouldn't think of a violinist playing the national anthem, you'd think ok, who's the singer going to be, who's the guitarist going to be. But to see that a violin can sing and soar with the rest of them — really, I think, it makes it very interesting to different audiences." Her Strad has also provided back-up for jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, and pop star Michael Bolton, to name a few. On her latest release, titled, "Air, A Bach Album," which celebrates the music of Bach, she experimented with a technique familiar to the world of popular music.
"I was really wanting to highlight how important Bach is in my life and just what a concrete foundation he has provided for all musicians and composers throughout history," she says of her new Bach Album, "and to record the two violin concertos, as well as the double concerto, which was really his only surviving work for two violins which was very fascinating and a profound experience for me to get involved in."
For Bach's double violin concerto Anne Akiko Meyers did what a lot of pop artists do, she recorded both parts herself, "You know I've recorded some songs with rock n' roll guys and they're used to putting headphones on and doing takes with themselves, with their voices," she explains, "but to actually do it with the first violin part was really so different than anything I had done before."
And, she recorded both parts on two different violins, at different times, in different places. The voice of the first violin part is played on an instrument she just purchased last year for 3.6 million dollars, "It's the ex-Molitor. He was a general in Napoleon's army. And Count Molitor, not the baseball player, owned this violin for over 100 years. And Napoleon prior to him, and Juliet Recamier, who was this beautiful, legendary, society lady in Paris, owned the Strad before that. And just to know the exact people who have graced this violin over the last 300 year is mind boggling!"
"I recorded the first violin part with the English Chamber Orchestra in London. I think it was May of last year. And then I did the second violin part on the 1730 royal Spanish Stradivarius violin in New York with headphones on, some months later. And it was so, so awesome to finally get to hear the two voices sewn together and to hear what had been created by one person. Because I wanted to really make sure that the two voices were very separate voices."
Anne recruited Jeff Kryka a young composer from Los Angeles to create a new arrangement of Bach's famous 'Air', from his Orchestral Suite No 3, which opens this new recording, "I asked him to do an arrangement in the original key in D major instead of the altered version of the Air on G," Meyer's explains, "I wanted to be really more authentic and take it kind of straight from the Orchestral suite No. 3 in D major and I asked him to arrange that accordingly."
There's also a piece on this release that you've probably never heard played on violin. That's because it's the beautiful Largo from Bach's Concerto for harpsichord in d minor transcribed for violin, "I love its depth and its richness of color," Anne explains, "When I hear it on the piano, I just drool and wish that I could play the piano so that I could play that piece. And you know selfishly, I was just like, I've got to do that on violin!"
More than anything Anne Akiko Meyers loves to perform on stage, which is why she's really excited about next season, "I'll be playing the Barber violin concerto at Carnegie Hall. And also premiering Mason Bates' first violin concerto that will involve electronica as well as symphony and myself, and taking that around the country. And we'll see if we're also going to be making another recording of some kind. It's going to be a full plate."
That full plate also involves a husband, an 18-month old daughter, and a new baby girl on the way next month. No wonder Anne Akiko Meyers loves to bathe her soul in the music of Bach.