“Air—The Bach Album”: Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, BWV 1068; Violin Concerto No. 1 in a, BWV 1041; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E, BWV 1042; Largo from Concerto for Harpsichord in f, BWV 1056; Concerto for Two Violins in d, BWV 1043; Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) – Anne Akiko Meyers, violin/ English Chamber Orch./ Steven Mercurio – E1 Music 7785, 57:33 ****1/2:
It has been a while since I have come across an album by the gloriously photogenic Anne Akiko Meyers. Now 41, the San Diego native (by way of education at Indiana University and Juilliard) recorded a sumptuous Barber concerto in 1988, a scintillating Bruch Scottish Fantasy in 1992, and other albums which seemed to come out once a year for a long time. Around 1998 until early 2004 there were some generic easy listening recordings like Violin for Relaxation, and her career stalled somewhat, at least as far as recordings are concerned. But of course this is true for a host of other big name instrumentalists as well when the major record companies began to bail on their artists. Around 2004 she began recording in earnest again including some important modern music albums, though she does not seem averse to crossover work as well.
So it’s nice to hear this album and find out that her playing is as sparkling as it ever was, though I take with a grain of salt her insistence that before the recording she immersed herself in the study of “authentic ornamentation, tempi, and dynamics.” These are in fact very mainstream readings, with realistic tempos and luxuriant lines. Meyers’s vibrato is very intense and her tone quality rich and assured, hardly what we hear from the period people these days. None of this is a problem with me; in fact I think the road she chooses here is the best paved one available, and these readings are eminently gratifying.
One caveat about authenticity, at least as regards a recording, is that the Double Concerto is a contrived reading, meaning that Meyers has opted to play both parts by recording one and dubbing in the other at a later session (London and then New York). One of the advantages of her success is that she is now the owner of not one, but two Stradivarius violins, the 1730 “Royal Spanish”, her first, and then a recent record setting acquiring of the 1697 “Molitor”, supposedly once owned by Napoleon, and offered for a low, low, $3, 600,000—the largest amount ever paid for any instrument anywhere until the Lady Blount was sold in 2011. The two instruments are quite different, and it is interesting hearing both played by the same artist in the same piece.
I can’t say I am that much of a fan of the three “arranged” excerpts on this recording, with Meyers way too closely recorded. They are designed to show off her exquisite tone, but the concertos themselves do this as well. They are beautifully played but also sort of mushy on an album where the masterly concertos are featured. However, I greatly enjoyed this disc, stunningly recorded, and Meyers, not as publicized as other violinists, certainly shows here that she deserves an equal place on the podium.
An excellent DG debut!