Listen New Classical Tracks: Anne Akiko Meyers
Listen New Classical Tracks: Anne Akiko Meyers (extended interview)
Anne Akiko Meyers - Fantasia (Avie)
"There are some composers who might run the other way when they see me, actually, because I am just so adamant in trying to get more music and repertoire for the violin from them," Anne Akiko Meyers says.
The violinist is not shy about asking composers to work with her.
"If you don't ask you'll never know," she says. "That's my motto. People can always say no. And that almost spurs me to harass them more."
No arm-twisting was needed when Anne approached one of her idols, Finnish composer Einojuhani (I-no-you-HAH-nee) Rautavaara. The work he composed for her is the title track on her 35th release, Fantasia. It turned to be an elegy of sorts, as it was the last piece he wrote before his death in July 2016 at 87.
"In 2015, I was wondering what the then 85-year-old Rautavarra was up to, and asked if he would be interested in writing a shorter 15-minute work for violin and orchestra," she says. "And he immediately responded with, 'Yes, I would love to,' and pretty much sent me the score right after."
You were able to go to Helsinki and perform the work for him. Tell me about that experience.
"So after I received the score and I ran to my music studio, I was just so breathlessly excited to find out what this piece was going to be about. And I was so stunned that it had a lot of similarities to the work that I originally fell in love with, The Concerto for Birds and Orchestra.
"And I was so excited to perform the piece for him, and he invited me to his apartment overlooking the harbor there in Helsinki. I was like a groupie, just taking photos of his door that said 'Rautavaara' on it, because I was so excited that I was there.
"I played the piece for him and immediately he turned to me and he said, 'I really, truly did write such a beautiful piece.' And I could not agree more.
"The only change that I made was of the bowings, and I fearfully asked him if he was OK with that, because that really changes the phrasing and the breath of a phrase. And he said, 'You know, I've always struggled with violin bowings, and I appreciate you taking the time to change them to make them more comfortable.' I could have just kissed him on his cheek.
"Listening to this music now really does feel like an elegy of sorts. And I'm not sure if he was aware of his own mortality and he was very … in fragile shape. He was using a walker, but he was just such a gentle soul that he had and smiling often. And, you know, telling me about his time with Sibelius. I mean, it's just incredible to think that this person actually knew Jean Sibelius."
Anne, you also feature the first violin concerto by early 20th-century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. Why did you choose to include this work on your new recording?
"The theme for this album really to me was to showcase these incredible composers that used color in such a magnificent way. And the Szymanowski is one of the most haunting, lyrical, expressive, exotic, erotic pieces that I just cherish performing."
What is one of your fondest memories of making this recording?
"Being able to hear the Rautavaara for the first time in the studio was an experience I'll never forget. And it's really like giving birth to a child. You just really don't know until all the voices come together … what the identity of this child is going to be like, what the personality of this child is going to be like. And to finally hear all the magnificent brass and winds and violins lushly playing, and it's like: Wow, this really is a treasure that he left violinists and the world."
To hear the rest of my conversation with Anne Akiko Meyers, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
ResourcesAnne Akiko Meyers (official site)
Anne Akiko Meyers: Fantasia (Avie Records site)
Anne Akiko Meyers: Fantasia (Amazon)