I sent her a cassette tape and she invited me to play for her in Aspen-I will never forget that moment when I stepped into the church and saw her waiting for me. I brought the Wieniawski Concerto No.2 and was incredibly nervous-I am not sure how my fingers moved. After a little bit of time, she smiled so widely and was like a loving grandmother to me. After spending my first summer here, she invited me to go to the Juilliard School. I remember many lessons, eating perpetually at Paradise Bakery, going to the music school in the beautiful mountains, meeting so many new friends and going to many concerts. It was the start of a beautiful relationship that deeply informed my teenage years and continued till she passed away. Coming back now with my young daughters and husband by my side, on the cusp of giving a recital including 3 world premieres with fabulous pianist, Anton Nel, I cannot help but remember her knowing smile, her love for all of us violin kiddos, and my dreams of becoming a concert violinist.
Recently, I spoke and performed some Vivaldi excerpts with Linda Wertheimer at the NPR Studios in Washington D.C. for Morning Edition.
March 07, 2014 3:15 AM
Anne Akiko Meyers, with her recently acquired Guarneri violin, at NPR’s Studio 1.
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is a violin that is older than the United States of America — 273 years old, to be exact. It recently became the most expensive violin in the world, selling for an estimated $16 million. Its new owner anonymously donated the historic instrument to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, on loan for the rest of her life.
Meyers joined Morning Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer in NPR’s studios to demonstrate the historic instrument’s unique character and the extraordinary gamut of color it is able to produce.
“I had to try it, and instantly fell in love,” Meyers says. “It was an incredible chemistry that occurred.”
The violin is named for its most famous owner, the leading 19th-century Belgian virtuoso and composer Henri Vieuxtemps, who loved it so much he wanted to be buried with it. “I think every violin has its own soul, and the soul has been imprinted by a previous performer,” Meyers says. “So I definitely feel the soul of Vieuxtemps on this violin.”
Luckily, it’s still with us. After being played by some of the most pre-eminent violinists — and, for the past five decades, stored under the bed of its previous owner — the violin is making its 21st-century recording debut. Meyers and the violin are part of the new recording The Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album.
“You know, I’m so honored to be playing this instrument, to hold history in my hands, but also to know how to use it,” Meyers says. “You could be given a Lamborghini or a Ferrari and not know how to drive it. But I’m lucky, you know, to have been performing my whole life, and been working with these instruments. So it’s just so inspirational to me.”
I knew I was in trouble when the director of the Triple Video sat me down and told me to just hear him out. “What we want you to do is go underwater with the violin. We want to see bubbles coming from your mouth once you are completely submerged in the water. Obviously, we will have to do this in one take.”
After scouring Ebay, I found my accomplice-a $140+$60 for shipping stunt double “Guarneri model” made in China. Yes, that’s right…$60 for shipping. Well, it was coming all the way from China!
When it arrived, I heard a large rattling sound and saw that the sound post was loose and rolling around the entire belly of the violin. When I asked the maker (factory rep) what to do to correct it, they answered briskly, “Get a professional or teacher to insert tweezers into the violin and position the sound post.” Hmmm. Suddenly I was a dentist? For some strange reason, I was determined to make this rattling piece of spruce sing but surrendered after the director said he needed to tape it to help seal out the water when it was to be ‘Excalibured’ over and over.
I hesitantly put on a beautiful gown made by the beautiful Parisian fashion house, J Mendel, and knew I would emerge a different woman after my one and only shot at water submersion. After spending the day in the cold water shooting many scenes all while fearing water snakes might make their way up my gown, here is the one and only take!
The 3 solo voices of the Triple Concerto are symbolized as water, fog and ice.
PS I did send the dress to the cleaners but it sadly never made it back the same a la Stephen King’s ‘Pet Semetary’.
Well, you must be 2 parts crazy and 2 parts insane. What got me started was finding out that Vivaldi died in 1741 and the Ex-‘Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri was born in 1741-one of the most incredible coincidences ever. Along the way, I also discovered this would be the debut recording of this legendary instrument-preserved for the last 50 years under a very discriminating bed in London. The violin that master violinist and composer, Henri Vieuxtemps would have liked to have been buried with.
This past August, I not only recorded the Four Seasons in London with the awesome English Chamber Orchestra, but decided to one up my last recording by playing all the parts of the Triple Concerto. On my way to London the second time in September to record Barber, Bates and Corigliano with the London Symphony, I donned headphones and put down Vivaldi violin parts two and three in New York. I also learned and recorded Arvo Part’s beautiful ‘Passacaglia’, which I performed in Estonia a few weeks prior with the composer close by…
There was the editing of the music, arranging for a photography team to come to Austin to shoot the album cover (all the while getting eaten ALIVE by mosquitoes), writing the liner notes, making a new website (will let you know when that is ready), new video and multimedia features, travel, concerts, practice, and lots of runny noses later, here we are! A pre-order link! The Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album
Happy Holidays…..What an incredible year it has been and I want to thank every audience member, fan, colleague, family member and friend for making my year so worthwhile. I was in so many wonderful places this year-Taiwan, Latvia, Estonia, New York, London, Scottsdale, Nashville, Buffalo, Detroit, San Luis Obispo, Pasadena the list goes on and on.
What made all these cities so incredibly memorable was the audience’s reactions to the concerts and their precious comments after each concert. Signing autographs for little children and adults who decided to try a classical music concert for the first time in their lives. They all left me with a giant impression and memory….thank you to all for coming out and listening..I so look forward to the places I will visit in 2014.…I am so thankful to all of you for listening and feeling the music. See you in 2014! Anne
I can’t believe what a genius Vivaldi was…I am humbled by so many composers but recently, I recorded a lot of Vivaldi in London with the English Chamber Orchestra and I was simply marveling at this red haired violin playing Venetian priest. As with most composers, he worked very hard most of his life and continually found inspiration to write some of the most prolific music everybody seems to be able to hum. It also seems incredibly modern that his music was performed by the women at the orphanage he was composing at most of his life. Plagued by health problems, he resented being ordained as a priest but the job gave him steady income.
To think that the 4 Seasons was all premiered by women is quite thrilling…especially in the 1720’s. The amount of freedom in his score is so deliciously compelling as well-I would love to read a thesis about why Vivaldi decided to name his concertos this way. As other Venetian composers labelled their concertos No.1 etc., he labeled his as ‘The Hunt’, ‘The Sea Storm’, ‘Autumn’ so visceral in its meaning that one can’t help but imagine red and gold leaves, the air becoming cool and becoming drunk with nature’s beauty…
Last March, I lost my beloved grandmother…. as I was incredibly pregnant with my second daughter, there was no way I could get on a plane to go to her funeral in Japan. It really hurt me deeply knowing that I could not see her face, kiss her cheek and hold her hand one last time. I was waiting to give birth to my beautiful, healthy 7 pound butterball named Hanako-chan (flower girl).
As I practice Vivaldi these days, I think of this and how Vivaldi died the very year that Guarneri del Gesu made one of his finest violins ever, the Vieuxtemps GDG, that I currently play on. It seems when a soul passes, a new one emerges and takes flight. Practicing the Vivaldi, I cannot believe the amount of joy, happiness and poetry that’s in the music. And likewise, I cannot believe the beauty of the Guarneri. What must have gone through that genius’ mind when he was creating it and what was in the genius soul of Vivaldi, the day he was put to rest…..
Recently, before a recital in Washington DC, I was able to try Fritz Kreisler’s Guarneri del Gesu. He played on this violin for 26 years and supposedly, he had to turn in this violin to the Library of Congress to settle a tax debt… It was incredible to see this beautiful violin and play a little of my favorite ‘Liebesleid’ on it. It had a very warm and deep sound and I definitely could feel Fritz’s soul emanating from it. It gave me goosebumps…
Now that I am playing on the ‘Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri Del Gesu, I have been experimenting with all kinds of different strings. (Yes, it’s a total dork post) I used to religiously play on Dominants, then switched to Titanium Visions and then fell in love with PI strings, or Peter Infeld strings. I found that the strings were too brassy and bright for the super-powerful VGDG and tried Passione strings-which are gut. Loved the warmth of gut but after a stage rehearsal, I found they didn’t have enough tension and constantly went out of tune-I panicked and promptly went back to PI. Lately, I have enjoyed the new Gold Evah Pirazzi strings.
It’s true! It’s all about the accessories! accessories! accessories!
They have the warmth of gut but are synthetic, have good tension and stay in tune. Today will be the first time I test them out on stage…now for those fifty shades of A.
PS For my die-hard fans, stay tuned for my guide to new sneaker shoelaces. Should be a good one….hahahahaha
Late in the summer last year, I had the opportunity to try a violin that had been stored under a very discriminating bed for 50 years. My mind was racing and I was so excited at the chance-it’s like being told you can jump into that Cezanne or Rothko and experiment with the colors in the painting…..
I heard the stories of how it was the most expensive violin in the world and thought it might be a big gimmick but after trying it alone in my music room, my heart and ears exploding with sound and color, I knew this violin was something truly extraordinary. It’s range, color, depth, breadth and power, made my fingers shake with excitement. Who knew that I could play Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Barber, Sibelius, Bach like this? I couldn’t believe that what I had fantasized in a violin actually existed.
The G string sounds like a cello, the E string rings like cathedral bells and the mid range hooks it all together. How could one man make a violin like this? It’s like having super hot water and super icy cold water coming out of one spigot. The sun and the moon out at the same time. Salt and sugar in one bite. (Dark chocolate w/sea salt and caramel comes close..:)) I thought it just was not possible….