When violinist Anne Akiko Meyers walked into NPR headquarters, I half expected her to be flanked by bodyguards. After all, she was carrying a very rare instrument. Her Guarneri del Gesù “Vieuxtemps” violin, built in 1741, is worth at least $16 million. Instead, Meyers arrived only with a pair of publicists and the perceptive pianist Max Levinson. She seemed nonchalant about the fact that her fiddle is worth a fortune.
What matters, naturally, is how the instrument sounds and few can make a violin sing as sweetly as Meyers. The San Diego native was already performing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at age 11. Three years later she enrolled in New York’s Juilliard School and at 18 cut the first of her 40-some albums.
A devoted champion of contemporary composers, Meyers opens with music by Philip Glass, who is currently writing a piece for her. The violin and piano arrangement of his “Metamorphosis II” oscillates between tranquil, long-held notes and flurries of arpeggios, while the piano toggles on mournful chords.
“The Swan,” the hit single from Camille Saint-Saëns‘ 1886 Carnival of the Animals, follows gracefully. Meyers’ diaphanous performance is a master class on how to achieve a rich tone with light bow pressure. The luxurious, low end of the Guarneri is spotlighted on Dirait-On, a gentle choral work from 1993 by Morten Lauridsen, which closes this set of unhurried, contemplative music.
Meyers may drive a hot rod violin worth millions, but it takes a true artist to handle the instrument and bring out its singular voice.
- Philip Glass: Metamorphosis II
- Camille Saint-Saëns: “The Swan”
- Morten Lauridsen: Dirait-On
- Anne Akiko Meyers: violin
- Max Levinson: piano
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