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Interview with Anne Akiko Meyers

October 21, 2011 at 5:15 PM

This lady needs no intro, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t make some kind of attempt at it.  Internationally-renowned violinist Anne Akiko Meyers (Yes, that Anne Akiko Meyers) has agreed to talk to The Glass. I need another pinch.

Scheduled to be released on February 13, 2012 (Just in time for that Valentine's Day gift, music lovers) is Anne's new CD The Bach 'Air' Album, a CD that will feature the Bach Violin Concertos, including the Double Violin Concerto where Anne will be performing both solo parts; one of them on the famous 1697 Strad Molitor that she acquired recently (More about this later), and the 2nd one on her 1730 Strad.

Anne continues to perform numerous classics on the concert circuit as well as premiering new works by David Baker, Mason Bates, Jennifer Higdon, Arvo Part, Somei Satoh, and John Corligliano. She's also collaborated with artists as diverse as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Michael Bolton.

CM: Anne, the forthcoming Bach CD looks very promising! You recorded both solos on the Concerto for 2 violins, usually that's a duet. Was this difficult to record?

AAM: I loved recording both parts of the Bach Double immensely. It was like having a tennis match with myself. The only downside was that I only had myself to get mad at! I recorded the first violin part on the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" Stradivari violin dated 1697, in London with the English Chamber Orchestra and the second part in New York with headphones on the SUNY Purchase stage. I played the "Royal Spanish" Stradivari violin dated 1730 for this part and played off the differences in tone quality and sound.

CM: You've been doing this since childhood, and even at that time you've been on television. Can you recall what it was like to be on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show during those years?

AAM: I totally remember playing on the Johnny Carson Show! It was my first time on national television and it was an honor to be asked twice to play and be interviewed by Johnny Carson. He was very easy to talk to and also didn't talk down to us, even though we were all 10 and 11 years old. (I was the leader of the Angels Ensemble of California Quartet.) We were asked back a third time and I was already on my way to study with Josef Gingold at Indiana University. I turned the show down and still kick myself now thinking about that.....

Angels Ensemble of California on The Tonight Show, circa 1981 (Anne’s the tall one; Anybody know what piece this is? It sounds like Bach)

CM: I was checking out the current album Seasons...dreams, and such great pieces that are mostly befitting of the title, but what made you decide to include the Alfred Schnittke reading of "Stille Nacht (Silent Night)"? Artful arrangement, but a bit jarring in the context of this collection, wouldn't you say?

AAM: Seasons...dreams was an amazing assortment of dreamy and seasonally themed music based around the Beethoven 'Spring' Sonata No.5. I visited such diverse composers as Wagner, Gershwin, Debussy, Faure, Beethoven, and Gene Pritsker and also had some jazz standards arranged including "Tenderly/Autumn Leaves", (a personal favorite) and "Autumn in New York". When I looked at music for the winter season, I thought Alfred Schnittke's eerie spin on one of the most traditional songs ever composed "Silent Night" was beyond perfect. And personally, I love that you used the word "jarring". I believe that music shouldn't be all pretty and on the surface. Music should make one dream but also feel and the Schnittke has both elements-even if it makes one squirm.


The Star-Spangled Banner (arr. by Anne Akiko Meyers; live at Safeco Field, Seattle, WA 8/13/11; Her nephew is the one you hear crying)

CM: Can we also talk about the Strad Molitor since it sort of put you in the headlines (At least on Keith Olbermann's show)? This is a violin that has changed hands between what looks like 10-20 different owners, including Napoleon, and lord knows how many people were allowed to hold and/or play it. It was even owned and used by The Curtis Institute of Music in Philly for a time.

AAM: It is incredible to know the exact provenance/history of every person who owned 'Molly' since she was born in 1697. There aren't that many violins that this could be said about.
So many of these antique violins have been destroyed over the 300 years due to floods, fire, wars, airplane crashes, and people not properly maintaining them. Knowing that this violin passed through the hands of Bonaparte Napoleon, Count Joseph Molitor, Madame Juliette Recamier, and Elmar Oliviera to name the core few, is truly humbling. It is rare when a violin of this stature and historical importance becomes available and when the auction house, Tarisio, had it in their offices, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn't even looking for a violin as I was happily touring with the 'Royal Spanish' Strad dated 1730, but once I tried the ex-'Molitor/Napoleon', it was love at first sound.

CM: Do you think it sounds better than any of your other violins?

AAM: Over the years I have played on some of the best Guarneri del Gesus and Stradivari violins and the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" without a doubt, belongs to this category. The sound sparkles and shines.

CM: Where is it now?

AAM: It is hiding in an undisclosed location with guard dogs and security detail in tow.

CM: Your appearance on Countdown With Keith Olbermann [CNBC show] was hilarious, BTW! How did that come about?

AAM: Keith Olbermann is a big baseball fan. He jokingly asked if there was a connection between Paul Molitor, the Hall of Fame baseball player, and the ex-"Molitor/Napoleon" Stradivari. One thing led to another and he invited me to New York to play on his show. I also played the funeral music for Paul, the prognosticating octopus, who unfortunately passed away a few days later.

From Gene Huang
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 6:46 PM

I saw AAM in recital last April and completely inspired me to pick up my violin again.

From bill platt
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 7:03 PM

She is awesome. One of my favorites :-)

From Stephen Symchych
Posted on October 21, 2011 at 9:36 PM

Concerto is Vivaldi, I believe.  

From Christopher McGovern
Posted on October 22, 2011 at 12:51 AM



From Christina C.
Posted on October 25, 2011 at 1:56 PM

 I check her blog from time to time,  she seems very candid and down to earth.

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