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.
As a coda: Last week, the ever-busy Meyers gave birth to her second daughter, according to a message on her Twitter account, “just in time for Bach’s birthday."
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
English Chamber Orchestra
Steven Mercurio, conductor
Available at Arkivmusic.com