Anne Akiko Meyers

Birds in Warped Time

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Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers has been off the recording rolls for several years since the end of her association with BMG Classics, a division that itself went belly-up not long after Meyers parted company with them. In the interim Meyers has never been absent from the concert circuit and continues to exert her influence, artistry, and considerable charm over audiences worldwide. Obviously something needed to be done, and Meyers decided to take the matters into her own hands with this Avie disc, Anne Akiko Meyers, where she is featured in a recital of works by Somei Satoh, Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, Toru Takemitsu, and Maurice Ravel and expertly accompanied by pianist Li Jian. All Avie releases are produced and controlled by the artist.

This is a truly impressive effort -- if anything, Meyers' sound and approach have deepened in expression and sensitivity since her days at BMG. The program is built intelligently, with the Debussy and Ravel serving as the fulcrum about which the Satoh, Messiaen, and Takemitsu works turn. Meyers is a genuinely unique voice among violinists -- her interpretation of the Debussy Sonata for violin & piano is radically different from any other version. Meyers observes Debussy's dynamic markings to the letter and is truly pianissimo where some others would be simply less loud than as they were playing immediately beforehand. Meyers' use of gliding portamenti is quite striking, and is as specified, whereas most contemporary violinists tend to tread a tad more cautiously. Her tempi are quick, yet flexible. Meyers liberates the Debussy Sonata, making it sound like it belongs to the composer of Pelleas et Mélisande, rather than as a mere bookend to César Franck's post-romantic Sonata in A minor, with which it is so often paired. The other pieces are heard from a fresh perspective, as well; Meyers treats each work as a role in a play, with herself as lead actress. Meyers is distant and mysterious in the Takemitsu, meditative and ethereal in the Satoh, bluesy and a little tongue-in-cheek in the Ravel. Li Jian holds up his end of the argument with excellence, bringing out details in the accompaniments to these pieces you'll swear you've never noticed before.

In the music business few things are harder than making the transition from being a fresh talent on a major label whose every release is labeled "in-store play priority" to that of a seasoned artist recording on one's own. Happily, it appears that Anne Akiko Meyers has returned, better than ever, and this should be cause to celebrate. Welcome back!

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