This new recording of Vivaldi’s famed Four Seasons – as well as the Vivaldi Triple Concerto on which Meyers plays all three parts – marks the recording debut of the 1741 "Vieuxtemps" Guarneri del Gesù violin, considered one of the finest sounding violins in existence. Performing with the English Chamber Orchestra under the direction of David Lockington, Ms. Meyers presents two Italian legends with Antonio Vivaldi and Guarneri del Gesù.
In January of 2013, Anne Akiko Meyers was awarded exclusive lifetime use of the legendary 1741 “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu, which has been dubbed “the Mona Lisa of violins.” It is legendary for its peerless sound and near-pristine condition, and is believed to be theRead more most expensive violin ever purchased. The violin has been guarded for centuries, and has not been in the recording studio until now.
Composed around 1723, The Four Seasons is today one of the most beloved musical compositions. Originally written and performed by Vivaldi and the chamber orchestra he formed at a girls’ orphanage in Venice, these concerti were largely forgotten after the composer’s death until their rediscovery in the 1920s and subsequent recording in the ’50s. A set of sonnets, likely penned by Vivaldi himself, accompany the score and describe the natural settings that inspired the music.
After the tremendous success of her last recording, Air: The Bach Album, where she performed both parts of the Bach Concerto for Two Violins, Ms. Meyers decided to do one better and perform all three solo parts of Vivaldi’s Triple Concerto RV551 in F Major. The Vivaldi works are separated by Arvo Pärt’s Baroque-inspired Passacaglia. For Ms. Meyers, a longtime champion of new music, Pärt’s music “speaks beautifully with direct simplicity and purity and demonstrates the instrument’s entire range of harmonies.”
R E V I E W: 3763520.az_VIVALDI_Four_Seasons_Concerto.html VIVALDI The Four Seasons. Concerto for 3 Violins in F, RV 551. PÄRT Passacaglia • Anne Akiko Meyers (vn); David Lockington, cond; English CO • EONE 7790 (53:34)
Anne Akiko Meyers relates, apparently without embarrassment, that the majestic lion of the violin, Eugène Ysaÿe, at the funeral of one of his masters, Henri Vieuxtemps, carried his teacher’s Guarneri del Gesù on a pillow—but that he couldn’t afford to buy it. (For a long time he played a Guadagnini, and finally bought a Guarneri when he reached the age of 33—great violins out of the financial reach of great players isn’t anything new.) And the seven glamour photographs included in the booklet depicting Meyers holding the violin (in all of them covering some part of it with some part of her) make it clear that, although this violin, for which the owner of one firm related to me that he was expecting it to command a price in the mid-10-million dollar range—may be making its first appearance here, the issue’s pretty clearly not about the violin but about the violinist. Meyers relates in her insert note that the Seasons lay in obscurity, with no “major” appearance on disc until the 1950s, overlooking perhaps the fact that Louis Kaufman (not major?) gave them their landmark first recording (not on a Guarneri del Gesù) in Carnegie Hall in 1947 (he finished recording Vivaldi’s op. 8 in 1950 in Zurich).
Let’s shift gears, though. David Lockington and the English Chamber Orchestra give a brisk but tonally full-bodied account of the first movement of “Spring,” with plenty of dynamic contrast; and the violin in question, when it eventually emerges fully from the tutti passages, sounds silvery and brilliant, as does the soloist herself. But she draws achingly sweet timbres from it in the slow movement; perhaps, though, it’s not just the timbres, but the subtle inflections with which she endows the phrases that make the movement sound so succulent. In the finale, her passagework seems crisp, confident, and elegant. The ensemble makes the opening of “Summer” sound as tentative as it should; but there’s nothing tentative about Meyers’s first virtuosic solo—the vividness of her bird calls should create a frisson in the most jaded listener—in all its bewildering variety. Once again, the slow movement sounds silkily expressive. The engineers have captured her up close, but listeners should find her playing correspondingly more captivating for that. The finale is explosive, in both the thundering orchestral tuttis and in the flashing solo passagework. “Autumn” sounds edgier in Meyers’s solo than in the ensemble’s tutti, with the electrifying passagework in the former relieved by the solid bounce of the latter. She speaks commandingly in the instrument’s lower registers—and she engages in some improvised whining in the slower passages, which may not mar their effect even for purists. Meyers returns to knife-throwing in the finale, which calls for just such virtuosity as she displays for its ultimate effect—and she makes the prey she represents writhe in agony. “Winter” opens here with icy textures that nevertheless remain well within normal textural bounds. The slow movement sounds warm and pliant, with atmospheric ensemble support. In the finale, all the forces crackle with static electricity.
Meyers doesn’t leave the recording at only about 40 minutes, as some do, but has provided a slashing, hypnotic version of Arvo Pärt’s ingratiating Passacaglia and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Three Violins, RV 551. In an earlier recording (EONE 7785, Fanfare 35:6) she played both parts of Bach’s popular Double Violin Concerto—with estimable success. Here, she goes one better (or worse, depending on how you look at it), playing all three solo parts. In the earlier recording, however, she employed two different Stradivaris, while here she plays all the parts on the Guarneri. Nevertheless, it’s a bracing, captivatingly frothy performance, not gimmicky at all beyond the concept itself.
If Carl Schlechter had won his match in 1910 against world chess champion Emanuel Lasker (he drew it in a gesture nobly gallant), some believe he would subsequently have spurted beyond his already colossal stature. Might the recipient of such a violin as the Vieuxtemps Guarneri also receive such a systemic boost? It’s not clear from what she’s written, at least here, that Meyers considers its bestowal on her as a transcendent gift. What would Vieuxtemps and Ysaÿe have thought of this recording? What do I think? Would I recommend it? Enthusiastically and unhesitatingly. But I’d put in a different jewel case and throw away the booklet.
Concerto for 3 Violins in F major, RV 551by Antonio Vivaldi Performer:
Anne Akiko Meyers (Violin)
English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque Written: Venice, Italy Notes: Anne Akiko Meyers plays all three violin parts in this concerto.
Well Worth BuyingMay 15, 2018By Kenneth B. (Washington, DC)See All My Reviews"I already had other recordings of The Four Seasons, but bought this CD with Anne Akiko Meyers because I had heard on NPR the recording also included on this CD of Vivaldi's Concerto in F major for Three Violins. I am very glad I ordered this CD because I loved this treatment of The Four Seasons just as much as I did the Three Violins Concerto. Both the performances and the recording quality are uniformly excellent. Ms. Meyers displays a wonderful feel for Vivaldi's compositions. I recommend this highly."Report Abuse
Beautifully Played and RecordedMay 9, 2014By L. Wilborn (Richwood, TX)See All My Reviews"Vivaldi's The Four Seasons are beautifully played by Ms Meyers on this historical violin. The recorded sound is also excellent."Report Abuse