march 2012

Anne Akiko Meyers: ‘A wholly delightful Bach presentation…’

A New Triumph For Anne Akiko Meyers

Air: The Bach Album is #1 out of the box, and in critics’ hearts

Concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers has toured and collaborated with a number of symphony orchestras as well as Il Divo, Chris Botti and Wynton Marsalis. Meyers tours with a 1730 Stradivarius violin called the “Royal Spanish.” She is also the owner of a 1697 Stradivarius called the "Molitor,” which is believed to have been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. She purchased the Molitor from Tarisio Auctions on October 14, 2010 for U.S. $3,600,000, the highest recorded auction price for any musical instrument in history until the Lady Blunt was sold on June 20, 2011.

akikoEntering the Billboard charts at #1 only days after its February 14 release, Anne Akiko Meyers's Air: The Bach Album is an unqualified triumph for the San Diego, CA-born violin virtuoso who has been in the public spotlight since turning professional at age 16 (as an 11-year-old she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; at 12 she had performed with the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics. And by the ripe old age of 16, she had won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.).

Accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra as conducted by Steven Mercurio, Ms. Meyers performs the First and Second Violin Concertos and--on two different instruments—both parts of the Double Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo.

‘Air is one of the most sublime pieces of music ever composed’: the electronic press kit (EPK) for Anne Akiko Meyers’s Air: The Bach Album

Also included are the Largo from the Harpsichord Concerto in F minor (BWV 1056), and Jeff Kryka's arrangements of the “Air” from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D (BWV 1068), and the Bach/Gounod version of Ave Maria.

Critical reaction to Air: The Bach Album has been overwhelmingly positive. The most informed of the many laudatory reviews comes from John J. Puccio, writing on March 6 at his Classical Candor blog. Puccio’s appraisal, in part:

American concert violinist, chamber musician, and recording artist Anne AAkiko Meyers "wanted to include some of her favorite Bach pieces on the disc," including the famous "Air" from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 with which she begins the album. The album offers an outstanding showcase for her talents and is one of the highlights of a discography that includes over two dozen recordings.

Ms. Meyers performs the "Air" in an arrangement by Jeff Kryka, her playing with the English Chamber Orchestra under Steven Mercurio easygoing and soulful, making a pleasant introduction to the music to come. The violin is especially rich and sonorous while being clean and clear, too, another trademark of the performer.

Performing live at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art on January 30, 2011, Anne Akiko Meyers performs Bach’s Air on her 1697 vintage Napoleon/Molitor Stradivarius violin, with Reiko Uchida on piano. Air is the title composition of Ms. Meyers’s new album, Air: The Bach Album.

Next come the two violin concertos, No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 and No. 2 in E major, BWV 1042, which Bach wrote somewhere between 1717 and 1723, around the same time he was also writing the Brandenburg Concertos if you hear any similarities. Here, Ms. Meyers continues her expressive style, taking her time with the music yet eliciting much vitality from the scores. The most-direct comparison I can make is with Hilary Hahn, another gifted violinist, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on DG. One would have to say it's almost a toss-up, Ms. Hahn being a little quicker, zippier, in the outer movements, and Ms. Meyers perhaps a touch more comfortable and more compassionate. If I have a slight bias toward Ms. Hahn, it's probably because I've lived with her recordings longer. However, if you factor in the clarity and accuracy of the recorded sound for Ms. Meyers, it might sway the decision in her favor. In both cases, the accompanying ensembles provide solid, unobtrusive support.

As a break between the violin concertos, we get the little Largo from the Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056, transcribed for violin. It is, as we might expect, completely lovely.

Then we come to the centerpiece of the program, the Concerto for 2 violins, strings and continuo in D minor, BWV 1043, in which Ms. Meyers plays both parts. I mean, why not, when you own two Strads, a 1697 "ex-Monitor/Napoleon" and a 1730 "Royal Spanish." As each instrument sounds different from the other, it's an ideal combination. Here, I actually did have a preference for Ms. Meyers over Ms. Hahn and her colleague for Meyers's more relaxed, flowing, lyrical, yet vital approach.

The album ends with the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, again arranged by Jeff Kyrka. It makes an appropriately gorgeous ending for a wholly delightful Bach presentation.


WQXR-FM, New York City’s classical radio station (on the internet at, named Air: The Bach Album its Album of the Week for the week beginning March 24, and had this to say about it:

Anne Akiko Meyers hatched the idea for her latest recording, titled, Air: The Bach Album, after she purchased a rare violin, a 1697 Stradivarius called the "Molitor," for a then-record $3.6 million at an auction. Having already owned a prized Strad--a 1730 instrument called the "Royal Spanish"--she decided to do the next logical thing: feature both in a kind of duet with herself.

Thanks to modern recording techniques, Meyers is able to play both solo parts in Bach's Double Concerto, one using the "Molitor," recorded in London with the English Chamber Orchestra, and another on the "Royal Spanish," recorded in New York. For the rest of the album she focuses on solo literature: Bach's First and Second Violin Concertos and new arrangements of the "Air" from the Suite No. 3 and the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria."

News stories about rare instruments, of course, hold a particular fascination amongst the general public--perhaps more than the music that is played on them. Meyers, a onetime child prodigy from Southern California, shrewdly realizes this fact. She has parlayed that into appearances on prime time TV (Countdown With Keith Olbermann) and Major League Baseball (performing the National Anthem at a Mariner-Red Sox game).

But the Double Concerto performance doesn't stand out here as a publicity stunt. Both Strads are from Bach's time but the "Royal Spanish" has a notably darker quality than the "Molitor." One can hear the variances in timbre between the two instruments, and Meyers delivers crisp, nuanced and tastefully ornamented readings of both. She is equally persuasive in the two solo concertos and if the vibrato-laced “Ave Maria” isn’t going to win any awards for historic authenticity, it is warmly felt nonetheless.

Anne Akiko Meyers’s Air: The Bach Album is available at

A personal perspective on Ms. Meyers’s career, in her own words, continues our Classical Perspectives coverage here.

As a coda: the ever-busy Ms. Meyers has given birth to her second daughter, according to a message on her Twitter account, “just in time for Bach’s birthday."

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