I am on vacation in beautiful Hawai’i now…looking at the incredible ocean, palm trees and flowers, I started thinking which music would go with this scenery. Everywhere you go, you hear Hawaiian music wafting through the air, feeding your stimuli like a lazily delicious day when you basically do nothing but maybe make some chocolate cookies. It got me thinking to how music is such a product of our environment-you just can’t hear Beethoven coming out of the waves here. It would be wrong. Sibelius? OMG. Maybe a little Mozart but even Handel is too linear for this seductively mellow sphere. Perhaps a little Debussy, Mendelssohn and Japanese music with taiko drums-yes! For sure!
Have beautiful tropical places produced seriously great composers? When you look at the waves lapping the warm coral reef stones that make this beach so spectacular, who would be want to be stuck in their bungalow, slaving over a score?
I have practiced practically everyday of my life since I was 4 years old. There is good practice-where I manage what I have to do and efficiently do it (in 45 min.-1.5 hrs.) and bad practice-where I would count the endless hours (3-5 hrs. growing up) and actually move the handles of the clock to show my mom, look! Amazing! Wow, look at the time! I am done! Since I had my second daughter, I was thinking about practicing and how I think of it everyday. No matter where I am in the world, or what I am doing in the day, there’s always a moment when I think, ‘I’ve got to practice’ or ‘When the hell will I get to practice’ or scarily remember some part of the previous night’s nightmare of having to go on stage without any rehearsal or warm-up and perform the last movement of the Sibelius Concerto.
Have I gotten worse as I’ve gotten older? How do I remember so much when practicing so little? Will I ever feel ‘practiced’ enough? Towards the end of the last pregnancy or dog days of pregnancy, I had zero energy to practice and would hit my belly with every bow stroke. I missed feeling like I was in shape and ready to play a 2 hour recital yet I also really needed a break. It’s amazing how refreshed one can feel when taking a break from it-one week is good, 2 weeks away I become lethargic. Any longer, and I can’t remember how string crossings work…..
Every time I pick up the bow, I feel a little different, a little older and maybe just a little wiser. It’s my soul connector in a way. It gives me time to reflect and throw myself into a challenge I have to figure out immediately. Putting so many pieces together like an endless puzzle or a super gnarly police investigation.
Egad….OK…..it’s time to go practice!
The author was about 5 or 6 years old when this picture was taken……
Yesterday I was tweeting with Alec Baldwin. (Amazingly, his tweets are his own!) I am totally amazed at his tireless advocacy for the arts. Recently, I performed at a gala for WNYC/WQXR where he graciously emceed:
I remember sitting near him a few years ago on a date with my future husband at Carnegie Hall, when Martha Argerich was performing the Prokofiev Concerto No.1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He came alone and was totally immersed in the music-impervious to being stared at by everyone around him.
This past week, he went to Washington D.C. to lobby for musicians, dancers and artists. It is so incredible to have a passionate artist such as himself to share this important message. Where does he find the time to do as much as he does? (Capital One commercials included…) My guess is, the man never sleeps….
Today I lost one of the sweetest people I knew in my life-my 96 year old grandmother. It has been devastating but what memories I have. It seems the people that are so influential in one’s life, leave such deep memories rooted in your heart forever. I spent so many summers in Japan growing up and having her tenderly apply mosquito cream to my swollen legs. Funny the things I remember….she would take the train all the way from her house in Tokyo, before the express Narita Airport train existed, and patiently wait for my flight from the states to arrive with delicious food and gifts in hand. Roundtrip, this must have taken at least 8 hours. These memories will forever stay with me…..and how she eventually went to all my Tokyo concerts until she couldn’t anymore. So proud of me no matter what. In the middle of one of the insanely busy tours I would have, it was being in her house, eating dessert together and laughing about this or that that mattered. So full of grace, humor and kindness, she would make me laugh at my own stubbornness. She was my rock. My link to something truly extraordinary by the almost century she lived. And now she’s no longer…..It will be so different the next time I land in Japan, knowing she is resting peacefully, no longer fussing over me or saying ‘I lob you’. Her favorite song was Rentaro Taki’s ‘Kojo no Tsuki‘, (Moonlight Over the Ruined Castle) which I rearranged for solo violin. I was thinking of her in every note and pouring out my love to her when I recorded that for ‘Smile‘. In her final days, she listened to ‘Air-The Bach Album‘ repeatedly…this gives me such solace. I love you sweet Obachiyama of mine. I look forward to holding your hand again…….
Recently, as in yesterday, I was featured in an interview on National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered’ with Robert Siegel. I just happened to be driving to Starbuck’s for my daily extra-sweetened Venti Passion Lemonade and caught it in the car with my 19 month daughter in the back seat. She screamed, ‘Mama!! Mama!!’ when it came on and we sat in the car listening to it together…..
On a new recording, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers plays both solo parts in Bach’s Double Concerto, one on each of her two Stradivarius violins.
Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor — better known as Bach’s Double Concerto — has been recorded by many duos of great violinists.
But a new recording by Anne Akiko Meyers called AIR: The Bach Album offers something different: She plays both solo parts, one on each of her two prized Stradivarius violins. One is the “Molitor” Stradivarius from 1697, which is thought to have been owned by Napoleon and which she bought at auction two years ago for a then-record $3.6 million. The other is the “Royal Spanish” Strad, dating from 1730, which was once owned by the king of Spain.
Meyers calls the Double Concerto “one of the most fascinating compositions,” and says that many people were curious to hear how two violins that, as she says, “suddenly came into” her possession would sound together. So she recorded one solo part in London with the English Chamber Orchestra, and the other in New York with headphones several months later, listening to her first recording as she played.
“I played the first violin part on the Molitor Strad, and then I did the second violin part on the Royal Spanish Strad,” she says. She says she thought carefully about which violin to pair with which part. “The Royal Spanish has a little more masculine tone to it. ‘Molly,’ as I call her, has a very pure, beautiful, crystalline voice.” So Meyers plays the first violin part on the Molitor, while the lower bass notes are on the Royal Spanish.
Meyers’ mother is Japanese and her father is American; she was born in San Diego and studied at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. She was 4 years old when she began playing violin.
“There’s a story that my mother played a lot of music for me when she was pregnant with me. She played the recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh once I was born,” Meyers says, “and especially when she fed me, so I would associate the pleasure of food and eating with music.”
Perhaps it was to create a Pavlovian association?
“Yeah,” the violinist says with a laugh. “I get hungry every time I play.”
Thanks to YouTube, an early Meyers performance is available online. As an 11-year-old, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Anne Akiko Meyers/YouTubeAnne Akiko Meyers as an 11-year-old on ‘The Tonight Show.’
“I’m the one with the long knee socks,” Meyers says. “I still haven’t forgiven my mother that she put me on national TV wearing long knee socks.”
A more recent performance of hers has been memorialized on YouTube: when Meyers played the national anthem before a Seattle Mariners-Boston Red Sox game last year.
Anne Akiko Meyers./YouTubeMeyers playing the National Anthem before the start of a Mariners game on August 13, 2011.
“That was such an honor to be asked — to get up in front of 42,000 screaming fans was just so thrilling,” she says. “And I’m very proud to say that the Mariners went on to win like three games after that. I would like to completely credit myself for their winning.”
I played recitals in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan and had a special New Year’s Concert at the beautiful Opera City Hall with the Tokyo Philharmonic and Yosuke Yamashita. It was soooooo great to be back in Japan being 8 months pregnant with my second child, I definitely landed in Food Heaven, but was unable to eat sushi (this is really tragic). I love traditional Japanese food and got more than my fill of dango (kind of like mochi balls with sweet red bean paste) and Mont-Blanc cake (chestnut cake is my fav…) as well as ramen and soba. The dairy is so different tasting as well and the ice cream, milk and whipped cream were to die for. OK, I haven’t had lunch yet so I will try and wipe my drool away…
The concerts were such a joy to play….Bach, Beethoven, Chaplin, Duke, Miyagi, Mozart, Schnittke, and the Ciupinski-which was a Japan premiere (as were the Wynton Marsalis cadenzas in the Mozart Concerto in G major). I love mixing it up! Before the Tokyo recital, I found the coolest pregnancy outfit by Issey Miyake. He uses intricate pleating in his designs and it expanded like an accordion to fit my expansive belly…
We returned home for a couple days before heading out to Santa Barbara for my performances there. It was awesome seeing family and I got some built in babysitting help with Ms.Natalie (our 19 month old who was jet-lagged). I got a review (actually 3 reviews!) that mentioned my “astounding entrance”-this really cracked me up!
Picture by David Bazemore
Anne Akiko Meyers joined the Santa Barbara Symphony for an excellent program on Sunday that mixed the worlds of Bach and Ravel with insight and integrity.
The S.B. Symphony at the Granada Theatre
Anne Akiko Meyers Played Works by Bach, Bloch, Haydn, and Ravel
Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers made a rather astounding entrance as she walked onstage looking every bit of the eight-and-a-half-months pregnant that she was as of the concert. A dear friend of the Santa Barbara Symphony and a world-renowned player, Meyers was in fine form for Williams’s “The Lark Ascending,” which sounded particularly dark and deep on her “Molitor” Stradivarius, one of the world’s most sought-after instruments. Taking her time with the piece, which leaves the violinist exposed for long moments as the composition calls for many sustained, unaccompanied notes, Meyers nevertheless pulled it off with consummate artistry. Next up was the Tzigane of Maurice Ravel, a delightful work that puts the techniques associated with Paganini in service to a set of melodies from the world of the gypsies. The soloist dazzled with her confident attacks on the many challenging passages, including some spectacular pizzicato, but Ravel’s brilliant orchestration nearly stole the show. A final callback, with pretty insistent cajoling from Kabaretti, put Meyers back center stage again for an unaccompanied encore of “Over the Rainbow.”
It was so invigorating to perform and feel my-soon-to-be baby’s kicks on stage…I rarely have seen uber-pregnant soloists perform on stage and the gasps I got when rolling onto stage were pretty funny…
It’s amazing how similar it is to start with an idea, germinate it, cultivate it and then voila! Give birth to it like a baby. As I prepare to release my latest album, ‘Air-The Bach Album’ on Valentine’s Day, 2012, I started to think of the process it took to reach this place.
I listened to the Bach Concertos in A minor and E major, and the Double Concerto my entire life. My earliest memories of this music are when we were on a family vacation, driving in the beautiful woods of Canada. We had to leave our beautiful new puppy named Melody, back home in California. My dad got off the pay phone (that’s how it was back then!) and had a very somber look on his face…we found out she picked up an infection and died in the kennel. It was one of the saddest memories I have as a child and this music was wafting through the car, patting and soaking up my tears…
I also remember playing the Bach Double Concerto at my teacher, Dorothy DeLay’s memorial. The folks who had their last name begin with A-M got first fiddle and M-Z got second, with Itzhak Perlman conducting. It was also one of the saddest days of my life, remembering the woman who gave all of us so much to challenge our lives with, joy and humor. But it was incredible to have all these violinists who’s lives were affected by one grand lady, together because of Bach. Playing Bach, I always think how he has influenced our lives with the deep profundity his music has reached in us all.
From the time my record producer at eOne Records, Susan Napodano DelGiorno, started discussing this project, to the actual recording sessions in London, this past May and New York, this past September, to editing, photography, mastering, finalizing product and release, will be a year long process. Just like a baby! You can see a bit of the incredible making of this album here:
Thank you Johann Sebastian Bach for giving us this incredible music and baby No.2.
I can’t wait to see your pretty face this spring……..
Thank you for sending me all sorts of questions when I suddenly felt I had absolutely nothing new to report or blog about. I asked for 5 questions and herewith I will attempt to answer #1.
Jessica Livermore asked:
It would be really interesting to hear how you balance your career as a talented, independent musician with having a baby and husband. Some women think those things are mutually exclusive, but obviously you do both!
This is a tough one. Natalie (who’s now 15 months) has been the world traveler. Putting up with my demanding travel schedule, she has been everywhere including Germany, France, Japan, Hawaii, New York maybe 10 times, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St.Louis, Seattle-you name it. Thankfully I have incredible support from my better half-that being my husband. He travels with me as well, is sensitive to the rigors and demands of my work while we both deal with the different sleep schedules, the food, playtime and bathroom breaks. Being able to travel the world is incredibly exciting but can really take it’s toll on a baby (and her parents). The work/rehearsals, his work/phone calls/meetings, practicing, concerts, getting around, emails, and going to sleep after a late concert, is a lot to juggle but oh sooooo worth it. (Where would we be without MUSIC??)
It also really makes one appreciate being home sweet HOME.
I have done some concerts alone and the plane ride definitely turns into a sleep lab and OMG I can actually flip through a magazine but I end up missing her and my husband so much from the road, it can get rough. When I performed in Korea this past March (and she was 9 months old), I was there for a week skyping like crazy. I was seriously dreaming of bursting through the computer to kiss and hold her.
And now, BREAKING NEWS….I am actually pregnant with baby #2 (!!!), it will be even more of a balancing act. I will send updates from the road with our family of 4………in other words I have no words of wisdom but, HELP!!! I am INSANE! and moms, you must know this already, but it helps to try and stay organized.
I am in my old hometown of New York City. It’s so great to be back. The weather is perfect and my tummy and mind are sooooo happy to see all my old haunts. My favorite Italian, Greek, Japanese, Korean and Chinese restaurants…ramen, oden, soba, burgers, pizza, luthiers, radio stations, shopping and friends. It’s all here in about a 3 block radius (okay, I’m slightly exaggerating as I didn’t include Central Park!).
All of this made me think about the reason why I came here originally. I moved to New York to study with Dorothy DeLay, the greatest violin teacher in the world, whom I studied with for 6 years-3 years in the pre-college division and 3 in college, trying to get my bachelor’s degree while touring, recording and flying like a maniac around the world. Ms.DeLay could have been anywhere-Bloomington, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Boston, Florida…but she chose New York City to teach and be seen in. I am so thankful for this and my home continued to be New York for almost 20 more years after I graduated.
Today, I did an interview for Sirius XM Radio, Symphony Hall and played 2 pieces in tribute to the 10th anniversary of 9-11. Every American remembers that day like the previous generation remembers what happened when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was in my apartment in New York, and I was supposed to meet a broker downtown to look at some apartments. She phoned me to say she was stuck on the bridge as she heard that some small plane mistakenly flew into some building. She told me to see if I could find out anything more by turning on the TV, and several minutes later, my mouth was on the floor.
The smell, the burning air, the cloud that descended over lower Manhattan was horrifying. One could smell death-lots of it. I soon was asked to take the train to Washington D.C. to perform the Beethoven Triple Concerto at the Kennedy Center, as a violinist could not fly into America at the time. It was scary there too with a rehearsal being called off because a suspicious van was parked outside the Kennedy Center. It was difficult to sleep that entire time knowing what had happened to America.
At Sirius, I was asked to choose 2 pieces to perform. One about reflection and the other about life affirmation. I chose Somei Satoh’s ‘Birds in Warped Time II’, as Michael Arad, the architect who was chosen over 5200 entrants from 63 nations, was the sole entrant to use music. This music together with his design was chosen and is now, the World Trade Center Memorial.
The second piece I performed was America’s National Anthem. It is one of the most beautiful anthems written (even though the music was an old English drinking song!). I recently performed this in front of 42,000 baseball fans at a Mariners-Red Sox game in Seattle. Thank you New York City.
B. Get dragged into the superficial Hollywood world of sycophants and cling-ons, and people who generally have no concept of how music is made and consult with them on a daily basis
C. Never be asked your opinion or get confirmation on the final song/product that’s distributed all over the world and have no recourse if it turns out nothing like you expected
I have learned these 3 valuable lessons when asked to make a duet album with Michael Bolton. I thought the record would be interesting, especially as other artists such as Eva Cassidy (who’s unfortunately passed away), Seal, AR Rahman and Chris Botti (who I have worked with) were also asked to take part in the duet album, ‘Gems’. I was called when I was in the middle of my horrific trip to Asia, when the devastating earthquake hit Japan. About 2 weeks before the studio sessions in Los Angeles, the lady on the phone told me ‘to make something up’ and improvise when playing U2′s song, “Pride in the Name of Love” with Bolton singing the lead part. I promptly phoned Gene Pritsker of ‘Variations on Sakura Sakura’ fame, who was in the middle of making a movie score. He sent me an incredible part and 48 hours before the session, when I was performing the Mozart Concerto in G Major on TV in Seoul, Korea, I was frantically practicing this part. It had me playing chords throughout the song, mirroring the guitar throughout the original song with some lovely melodies interspersed to show off the range of ‘Molly’. To hear my 1697 Strad violin sounding so glorious in U2′s song, was entirely entertaining in the studio and Michael and Dann Huff, the producer who was skyped in during the sessions, were beyond loving it and sending me happy notes of thanks.
Fast forward to today and while most of what I recorded lies on the cutting room floor, I cannot believe my ears when I finally had to purchase the album myself to hear the final version. There are maybe 2 bars of violin playing put in so softly that one can’t even tell it’s violin-it’s called ‘mime playing’ (and my management team agrees). And that is out of 4 minutes and 26 seconds of loud singing… I have been repeatedly told that my concept of duets is most definitely skewed from the MB camp. Oh, how right they are!