thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
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Mirror in Mirror Philip GLASS (b. 1938)
Metamorphosis II (1988, arr. M. Riesman for violin & piano) [7:15] Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
Fratres (1977) [10:44]
Spiegel im Spiegel (1978) [7:17] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane (1924, original luthéal version) [9:46] John CORIGLIANO (b. 1938)
Lullaby for Natalie (2010) [4:51] Jakob CIUPIŃSKI
Edo Lullaby (2018) [6:21]
Wreck of the Umbria (2009) [10:46] Morten LAURIDSEN (b. 1943)
O Magnum Mysterium (1994, arr. for violin and orchestra by composer) [6:43]
Anne Akiko Meyers (violin)
Jakub Ciupiński (electronics)
Elizabeth Pridgen (keyboard)
Akira Eguchi (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi
rec. 2016/18, SUNY Purchase, New York; DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York City; London Air Studios AVIE AV2386 [63:49]
I was surprised to find that this was the first recording by Anne Akiko Meyers in my quite substantial collection. She does have a liking for contemporary works which might go some way to explain this, but based on my appreciation of her playing here, I have been the poorer for this shortcoming.
Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis II will be better known to many as the source of one of the main themes used in his incomparable soundtrack for The Hours. This arrangement, by longtime Glass collaborator Michael Riseman, is very effective. The two Pärt works are commonly heard in the violin/piano versions, but will not be heard any better than here.
When he wrote Tzigane, Ravel apparently provided an optional version for accompaniment by a luthéal, a hybrid piano that extends the range of the instrument and produces a cimbalom-type sound in certain registers. Such an instrument only exists in museums these days, and the effect here was created by digitally sampling the sound from one in a Brussels museum and using that to produce a version that was “played” in the recording studio to accompany Meyers. For those particularly interested in this work, it will be a genuine curiosity; for the rest of us, I’m not so sure. One aspect that is not in doubt is Meyers’ playing, which is simply phenomenal.
The Natalie of the lullaby written by John Corigliano is one of Anne Akiko Meyers’ daughters. The work was commissioned/requested by her husband to play to the then unborn child. It is simple and gentle, as one would expect, and quite beautiful, perhaps the highlight for me among the works I didn’t know well or at all.
No, the Edo Lullaby was not written for the veteran Dutch conductor, but is based on a traditional Japanese folksong. Listening to it before reading the composer’s notes, I was rather taken aback by the staccato violin midway through, and then even more by the loud and harsh drone that appears towards the end. On opening the booklet, I find that he thinks of it as “a lullaby that makes you wake up”. Hmm, I’m not sure.
Wreck of the Umbria was a Meyers commission, and this premiere studio recording is in the original version for violin and electronics. It was inspired by the composer’s exploration of an underwater shipwreck. It is very atmospheric, and I found a good deal of enjoyment in it on return listens. I did wonder before listening about the use of electronic as accompaniment of electronics in this and the Edo Lullaby, but had no difficulty accepting them as a valid choice in a “classical” work.
The Lauridsen orchestration of his most famous work sits a little awkwardly, I feel, at the end of the CD, though by placing it after the two pieces with electronics as accompaniment, there is at least some sense of an evolution in the sound world away from the violin/keyboard combination. According to Meyers, she had harassed - her word – the composer for some time to contribute to this recording, hoping for a new work. Lauridsen’s version is that because the choral work was one of Meyers’ favourites, she asked him for an arrangement that featured the violin. I’ll leave you to choose which version to believe. There is not much doubt about which musical version I prefer: the orchestration adds a level of sweetness which detracts from the solemn beauty of the choral work. As gloriously as Meyers plays, she can’t convince me that this is equal to the original or even a reasonable alternative.
The sound quality is excellent, and while the glorious Guarneri played by Meyers, previously owned by Vieuxtemps, is front and centre in the mix, I only heard a few sniffs. The notes are contributed by Meyers and the composers/arrangers (not Ravel of course).
This is an interesting programme with a good deal of variety, where the Glass, Pärt and Corigliano pieces are my personal favourites. However, the undoubted highlight is the magnificent playing of Anne Akiko Meyers.
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