Virtuoso violinist Anne Akiko Meyers tells the story of seeing an old Jack Benny routine on TV. Mr. Benny had two violins: an el cheapo model, and an expensive Stradivarius. He wanted to show the difference between the two instruments. The comedian launches into Mendelssohn on the el cheapo and gets, "...squeak, SQUEAK, SQUONK, squeal..." Benny then picks up the Strad and plays the same piece. "...Squeak, SQUEAK, SQUONK, squeal..." Yes, comedy. But Meyers' point was that it's not really the instrument that makes the artist.
But what happens when a virtuoso is permitted use of a legendary instrument? Anne Akiko Meyers knows the answer. And now, so do we. Inspired performance that has the ability to take one back in time, while simultaneously making history.
One of this generation's pre-eminent musicians, Ms. Meyers has been given exclusive, lifetime use of a 1741 "Vieuxtemps" Guarneri del Gesu violin; perhaps one of the finest instruments ever made. Originally owned by Henri Vieuxtemps (hence the name), its legendary tone is likely from both its unrivaled craftsmanship and its near-pristine condition. The instrument's current owner did not want to see this violin sit in a case in a museum somewhere. He wanted it to live on in performance. Anne Akiko Meyers, and by extension, we, are the lucky beneficiaries of such forward thinking. And Meyers does the violin the same justice as its original owner.
Meyers' latest CD, The Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album, is the violin's commercial recording debut. Adding to the history of this event, the violin was born the same year Antonio Vivaldi died. Hearing Vivaldi's music on this violin is a thrill. Even more so with the performance of Anne, and the backing of the English Chamber Orchestra under David Lockington.
Hear more about the violin when Anne Akiko Meyers chats with Jill this week. We'll also hear music from this spectacular CD, including the Vivaldi Triple Concerto, where Ms. Meyers plays all three parts.
Crossover, with Jill Pasternak, airs Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore Friday evening at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2. Both airings are available on the All-Classical stream at wrti.org.