New Classical Tracks: Love letter to composers

Anne Akiko Meyers
Anne Akiko Meyers
Album cover

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers has just released a very personal recording titled "Smile."

"It's just music that I have absolutely loved for a very long time. It's like my love letter to all of these composers," she explained.

"Smile" is an eclectic array of pieces from Schubert to "Somewhere over the Rainbow." These beautiful melodies represent her life, her passions and her diverse musical interests.

"This music definitely comes from within a very deep place within myself," Meyers said. "It's music that has always moved me, and I think it moves really everybody. These are songs that you can hum to and feel on such a deep level, yet they're wistful, and sentimental, but so simple in their beauty."

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Anne Akiko Meyers opens this recording with the title track, "Smile," by Charlie Chaplin.

"When I first heard that I was just blown away," Meyers recalled. "It's music that you can really play from your heart when you're actually feeling some sadness. Like bittersweet nostalgia. I responded to that music almost immediately."

Meyers plays long, leisurely phrases, and her careful attention to dynamics enhances the wistful quality of this familiar melody.

Meyers grew up in southern California, and moved to New York with her family after being accepted into the Juilliard School of Music when she was just 14 years old. Yet Meyers still managed to get away every summer to visit her grandmother in Japan.

"I'm incredibly close with my 94-year-old grandmother, who always requested I play 'Kojo no Tsuki,' ("Moonlight over the Ruined Castle") for her. The story of that piece is quite beautiful and haunting, that the castle had seen wonderful, glorious parties and had this incredible life of its own, and then it had faded. But what was constant over the castle was the moonlight," said Meyers.

"There's such a truthfulness and purity of the moonlight, casting its light over this faded, once glorious castle. It is a very popular piece in Japan," she continued. "I think anyone there could hum it to you."

Meyers has a pure, crystalline tone that makes the moonlight shimmer in this solo violin piece.

Schubert's Fantasy in C Major is the centerpiece of this recording. Anne Akiko Meyers says it's very satisfying to play.

"There is so much going on in that work, it's like climbing the Matterhorn in the violin literature. It really tests you as a musician," said Meyers. "After he premiered it -- he wrote this in the last year of his very short life, he was only 31 when he died of syphilis -- the Viennese public thought it was a lousy work, they didn't like it. It's a testament to Schubert's work. It's one of the works for violin and piano today."

In the Schubert Fantasy, and throughout this recording, we hear a delightful chemistry between Meyers and her chamber partner, pianist Akira Eguchi.

"I've known him for a long time, we went to Juilliard together, and he's an extraordinary musician and also a composer," Meyers said. "We had so much fun in the Piazzolla because he really loved to put on embellishments, and just really kind of ham it up in the piano part."

The two Piazzolla pieces on this recording are somewhat smoky and seductive. That's exactly the way Anne Akiko Meyers likes to play them.

"Yes, I love those pieces. 'Introduccion et Angel' and 'Milonga en re'-- every time I play it it's like um, um, um, yummy! It's so nostalgic, and very evolved music. There's just so much color and feeling in each note, and you feel like you're really in a smoky bar enjoying a nice glass of whiskey, just enjoying your surroundings, just thinking about your life."

This recording will give you that chance to sit back and enjoy. There are gorgeous melodies to soak up, melancholy stories to savor, and a variety of musical styles to please just about any palate.