WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Air: The Bach Album / Meyers, Mercurio, English Chamber Orchestra

Meyers / English Chamber Orch / Mercurio
Release Date: 02/14/2012 
Label:  eOne   Catalog #: 7785  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachCharles Gounod
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Orchestral Suite No. 3: Air. Violin Concertos: No. 1; No. 2. Harpsichord Concerto in f, BWV 1056: Largo. Double Violin Concerto. BACH/GOUNOD Ave Maria Anne Akiko Meyers (vn); Steven Mercurio, cond; English CO EONE 7785 (57:33)

Anne Akiko Meyers’s album of short pieces and longer works by Johann Sebastian Bach begins with one of Read more the former, the Air from the Orchestral Suite No. 3, in an arrangement by Jeff Kryka that doesn’t convert the piece to so much treacle, although, for an album slated to be released on Valentine’s Day, there’s perhaps enough (principally in the form of swooping dynamics). If it’s not an acidulous exercise in period authenticity, it’s not an arrangement for the violin’s G string, either. The two violin concertos follow, with the First’s opening movement sounding brightly brisk in Meyers’s performance, enlivened as it is by plenty of rhythmic verve in the solo part. Meyers’s tone sounds just a bit edgy—though, like Zino Francescatti’s, very appealingly so—in the following Andante; as before, the engineers have caught her up close. Nathan Milstein considered Bach’s two concertos to be essentially chamber music; Meyers’s recording of both, on the contrary, showcases the violin as an almost aggressively soloistic instrument set far to the fore. The vivacity and piquancy of Meyers’s and the orchestra’s reading of the First Concerto’s finale carries over to the first movement of the Second, while in that concerto’s second movement, Meyers’s solo part, subtly inflected, noticeably dominates the orchestra. Even Isaac Stern might have blushed to have been set so far forward; the spotlight’s about as strong in Meyers’s recording of the composer’s A-Minor Concerto as the engineers focused it in his 1956 performance of the same work with the Philadelphia Orchestra—and he hardly sounds reticent. Steven Mercurio and the orchestra open the finale with a burst of energy, reflected in Meyers’s response.

Meyers retains the Largo from the Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1056 in the original key, a step lower than the popular arrangement of the work for violin, before launching into a brisk reading of the Double Concerto. The notes emphasize the uniqueness of her playing the concerto’s two parts on two different violins: Stradivaris from 1697 (Molitor) and 1730 (Spanish). Jascha Heifetz also played both parts in his recording from 1946 of the piece (later he played it with his student Erick Friedman), a gesture that struck some at the time as a sort of stunt. Meyers (or the violins she plays) manages to keep the parts tonally separate in the first movement, where it’s perhaps harder, as well as in the second movement, where it’s perhaps easier. For those who believe that there’s little really discernible difference (stories abound about Fritz Kreisler fooling his listeners into believing that his Stradivari sounded particularly good when in fact he’d been playing his Vuillaume) might want to reconsider after listening to Meyers’s performance. In the slow movement, in particular, Meyers’s clean articulation in both parts keeps the music from buckling under a crushing weight of solemnity, while her reading of the finale bustles with kinetic energy. The program concludes with a reading of Charles Gounod’s counterpoint to Bach’s First Prelude from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Perhaps this chestnut has to be played with a certain romantic lushness, and that’s the way Meyers does it.

Maybe it’s crossover (the photographs almost suggest that), but for those who can tolerate Meyers’s (and the engineers’) premises, her conclusions (and theirs) should be highly palatable. Recommended to those listeners—but more generally, too, for the ingenious interweaving of the two violins Meyers has effected in the Double Concerto; pairs of soloists, not so well matched, often achieve much less.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Suite for Orchestra no 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1729-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranged by Jeff Kryka. 
2. Concerto for Violin no 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
3. Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
4. Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056: 2nd movement, Largo-Arioso by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
5. Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
6. Ave Maria by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
Conductor:  Steven Mercurio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Notes: This work is based on J.S. Bach's Prelude no 1 in C from 'The Well-Tempered Clavier.' Arranged by Jeff Kryka. 

Featured Sound Samples

Violin Concerto no 1: I. Allegro moderato
Concerto for 2 Violins (Double Concerto): II. Largo ma non tanto

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Sublime Bach September 30, 2012 By philip lang (ashland, OR) See All My Reviews "The 2nd movement of the double violin concerto (Largo) will bring tears to your eyes and tear your heart out! Yet the rest appeals to the brilliant, orderly, "rational" way Bach writes. I love the fact that she plays two very different "strads" with different tonal qualities. I have other recordings of these works - but this is the one to have!" Report Abuse
 Beautiful Bach April 15, 2012 By Glen  D. (Coconut Creek, FL) See All My Reviews "Bach favorites played by a true virtuoso. This album is the quintessential dinner music." Report Abuse
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook