Café Concert: Anne Akiko Meyers

AUDIO: Performance and Interview with WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon

Friday, March 21, 2014

Anne Akiko Meyers with the 'Vieuxtemps' Guarneri in the WQXR Cafe Anne Akiko Meyers with the 'Vieuxtemps' Guarneri in the WQXR Cafe

Anne Akiko Meyers plays a centuries-old Guarneri del Gesu violin once used by Itzhak Perlman, Henri Vieuxtemps and Yehudi Menuhin, but it doesn’t reveal its beauty easily.

"It definitely doesn’t play itself,” Meyers said. “When you have such a powerful instrument you want to dig in deeper and soak in the juice. But with this instrument, almost less is more. It’s counterintuitive.

“You have to really finesse it in a certain way,” she added, noting how she is learning how to find the sweet spots and bring them out.

The 1741 Guarneri, known as the Vieuxtemps, was sold in 2012 for what was reported to be more than $16 million and its anonymous owner has loaned it to Meyers for life. She recently put the instrument to the test with a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the English Chamber Orchestra. Days after the album's release she brought the instrument to the WQXR Café to offer repertoire in a somewhat more unusual vein.

The internationally known Meyers, who is performing this spring with the Chicago Symphony and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, demonstrated its lyrical qualities with an arrangement of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”

One of the salient features of the Vieuxtemps is its enormous, rich sound, which Meyers attributes to its excellent state of preservation.

“It doesn’t have one crack on it and it doesn’t even have the normal sound post patch, which almost every violin has,” Meyers explained. “And it’s a muse for so many violin makers and violinists because nobody knows why it’s in such pristine condition. And this condition has helped the sound of the violin just soar.”

For one thing, the wood inside the violin was thicker, owing to the fact that previous owners did not alter it in a (misguided) attempt to draw out a deeper sound. Meyers added that the instrument had been mostly sitting under a bed for the past 50 years and as a result, “Even now, it’s still growing.” A Japanese folk tune arrangement revealed its tone in more virtuosic passagework.

Certainly, there has been ongoing debate over the relative merits of old and modern violins, and whether Guarneri and Stradivarius models are really better than the new ones. Blind tests have even suggested that experts couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Meyers notes, however, that contemporary makers still look to the centuries-old instruments for inspiration and guidance.

“There was one Monet, there was one Picasso, there was one Guarneri del Gesu," she said. "We try to emulate these incredible makers but they were artists that were transcendent. It’s so important to cherish these instruments as much as we can.”

Below: Meyers introduces and performs the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Video: Amy Pearl; Sound: Norko Okabe; Text & Production: Brian Wise; Interview: Jeff Spurgeon

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Comments [8]

Barry Owen Furrer

I'm thrilled this piece was still up on WQXR's site with today being the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner. It was both an honor and pleasure to hear again Ms. Meyers' rendition of our national anthem.
Thank you very much!

Sep. 14 2014 02:00 PM
harry from Howard Beach NY

Sorry, I meant miss Meyers not Miss Lin.

Apr. 21 2014 08:07 PM
harry from Howard Beach NY

One must listen to "Smile" on the Chaplin movie score to realize how far off the beaten path this interpretation is.Miss Lin missed the mark for this listener.

Apr. 21 2014 08:04 PM
FABRIZIO MENGA

" Smile " L'ho ascoltata alcune volte,anche se è molto diversa stranamente l'accomuno alla canzone " C'è una
strada nel bosco il suo nome conosco,vuoi conoscerlo tu?" Mi sbaglierò ma un brano così speciale,dove la tenerezza a parer mio domina e tutto rende luminoso,forse il Molitor potrebbe essere il suo strumento più idoneo ! Grazie per l'attenzione,saluto con molte cordialità, per la generosità di Anne in particolare!

Apr. 03 2014 09:37 AM
Margaret from CT

It brought tears to my eyes!

Mar. 25 2014 08:11 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

The playing was of course superb. What's missing is some sense of the various metaphors for the sound of this instrument, which could only be achieved with a comparison performance with another violin. Didn't Ms. Meyers already have a Strad when she got this?

Mar. 23 2014 02:51 AM
The Truth from LES

Bravo!

Mar. 22 2014 10:02 AM
Laurie

Magnificent!

Mar. 21 2014 08:23 PM

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