“The American Masters” Works by SAMUEL BARBER, JOHN CORIGLIANO, MASON BATES [TrackList follows] – Anne Akiko Meyers, violin/ London Sym. Orch./ Leonard Slatkin – Entertainment One Music EOMCD7791, 53:37 (9/30/14) ****:
This disc is a nice portrait of three American composers, Samuel Barber, John Corigliano and Mason Bates. All but the Barber are world premier recordings. Featured artist violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is known around the world for her artistry and ability to connect with audiences from the concert stage, online, and in television, and radio broadcasts. She regularly performs in recital and as guest soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras, and is a best-selling recording artist who has released 30 albums.
The three works performed are presented in the order of composition date, with the Barber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra presented first. Of the three works this is likely to be the most familiar to listeners. It’s very well played and as good a performance as I’ve heard of half a dozen or so CDs. The concerto was done on a commission from a Philadelphia industrialist in 1939. The first two movements were written in Switzerland, and as the war approached Barber returned to America and finished the concerto in upstate New York.
Next is a performance of John Corigliano’s Lullaby for Natalie composed in 2010. Corigliano, born in 1938, has a large body of work, primarily symphonic, but he has written scores for feature films, most notably his score for Altered States and The Red Violin.
The Lullaby for Natalie was written for Ms. Meyers in 2010 to celebrate the birth of her first daughter. Originally a piece for violin and piano, it appears here in a lovely orchestrated version, played with obvious emotion by the dedicatee.
Finally, and to close the disc, is Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto, composed in 2012. Bates is becoming increasingly well known, and has played a role in expanding orchestras to include electronic instruments. Currently, Bates is composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony.
His Violin Concerto has no electronic music, but it is an exotic representation of the transformation of dinosaurs into birds. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked the concerto and Bates is a fresh and talented new voice.
The CD is well-recorded. It’s very rich and warm, with, to my ears, a very accurate capture of the sound of Ms. Meyers violin and the orchestra. The recording was done at St. Luke’s in London. This thematic CD would make a good continuing series, and I’d be pleased to see it continue. A wonderful release.
TrackList:Samuel Barber (1910-1981) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14 (1939) = I. Allegro II. Andante III. Presto in moto perpetuo John Corigliano (b. 1938) = Lullaby for Natalie (2010) Mason Bates (b. 1977) Violin Concerto (2012) = I. Archaeopteryx II. Lakebed memories III. The rise of the birds