Anne Akiko Meyers: Shining Night (CD review)
Music of Corelli, Bach, Paganini, and more. Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Jason Vieaux, guitar; Fabio Bidini, piano. Avie AV2455.
By John J. Puccio
American concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers has always seemed to me to produce some of the most graceful, most sensitive music in the classical world. That has never been more noticeable than in her latest album, “Shining Night.” Here’s a rundown of the contents to illustrate the point:
Arcangelo Corelli: La Folia
J.S. Bach: Air on G
Niccolo Paganini: Cantabile
Manuel Ponce: Estrellita “Little Star”
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
Duke Ellington: “In My Solitude”
Astor Piazzolla: “Bordel” 1900, “Cafe” 1930, “Night-club” 1960, “Concert d’aujourd’hui”
Hugo Peretti: “Can’t Help Falling Love”
Leo Brouwer: Laude al Arbol Gigante
Morten Lauridsen: “Dirait-On” and “Sure on This Shining Night”
Ms. Meyers describes her motivation for the album coming from a conversation she had with composer Morten Lauridsen, whom she asked if he had written any duos that included the violin. He said he had written a tune describing a man going on a walk and thinking back over his life. She then says, “That inspired this collection of pieces that metaphorically begins in the morning and explores the vast musical history through Baroque, Romantic, Popular, and current genres. The common themes throughout the music reflect on one’s relationship with nature, love, and poetry. And how in dark and challenging times, kindness profoundly affects our souls and opens infinite possibilities when living our lives.”
So, she begins the program with Corelli’s La Folia, written some 400 years ago, and continues through Lauridsen’s relatively recent “Sure on This Shining Night.” Ms. Meyers does full justice to each of the pieces, from the regal elegance of Corelli to the more modern material. In fact, the Corelli becomes wonderfully vibrant in places, alternating with Meyers’s effectively contemplative interludes. The “Folio” was a popular dance of the day that followed a series of diverse variations, all of which Ms. Meyers conveys with equal ease.
The familiar “Air” from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 never sounded more beautiful, taken neither too fast nor too slow. As with most of the selections on the album, Ms. Meyers makes the music sing. It’s quite lovely, especially when she follows it up with Paganini’s equally lyrical Contabile. Jason Vieaux’s gently sympathetic guitar accompaniment adds to the sweetness of the affair.
We reach the twentieth century with the music of Gerald Ponce, his quiet Estrellita “Little Star” leading the way. It’s a romantic song reflecting the sorrow, pain, and hope of love. Ms. Meyers follows that with an ode to the moon by Villa-Lobos, all shadowy twilight and, again, her violin voices the notes as a singer might, with tenderness and understanding. The music is poignant and evocative; the playing is exquisite. Put another way, the album’s sixty-seven minutes seemed far shorter and for me could have gone on forever.
And so it goes. If you love the sound of the violin in the hands of expert technician and artisan of her trade, you can’t do much better than Anne Akiko Meyers. As I said in the beginning, her artistry is always skilled, delicate, intricate, and touching. She makes every note mean something as few musicians can. In the present album, we hear her at her best and most eloquent.
Producers David Frost and Anne Akiko Meyers and engineers Silas Brown and Sergey Parfenov recorded the music at Zipper Hall at the Colburn School in November 2021. The violin tone is luscious, clean, clear, never edgy or bright, and the guitar and piano accompaniments are moderately recessed to give proper dominance to the violin.
John J. Puccio, Founder and Contributor
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Editor and Contributor
For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they think I might enjoy.
For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I occasionally do some listening through pair of Sennheiser 560S headphones. I miss the excellent ELS Studio sound system in our 2016 Acura RDX (now my wife's daily driver) on which I had ripped more than a hundred favorite CDs to the hard drive, so now when driving my 2022 Accord EX-L Hybrid I stream music from my phone through its adequate but not outstanding factory system. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has tolerably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom II Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst
I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.
Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.
William (Bill) Heck, Webmaster and Contributor
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio
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