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Fantasia Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016) Fantasia, for violin and orchestra (2015) [13:41] Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1916) [24:29] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Tzigane (1924) [9:57]
Anne Akiko Meyers (violin) Philharmonia Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi
rec. 2016, Air Studios, London AVIE AV2385 [48:09]
American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is a prolific artist with thirty-five studio albums to her name. Her newly released album “Fantasia” comprises three works, including the world première recording of Rautavaara’s Fantasia, a work she commissioned.
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara wrote Fantasia for violin and orchestra in 2015 but he sadly died in July 2016 aged 87 before hearing the work. It was Meyers, its commissioner, who introduced the score in March 2017 with the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern. Meyers has described the score as “transcendent and has the feeling of an elegy with a very personal reflective mood”. She outstandingly delivers a near-endless flow of gloriously and moodily atmospheric music. Especially notable throughout is the soloist’s adroit control of the challenging dynamics.
Although brought up and taught mainly in the Austro-German tradition, Polish composer Karol Szymanowski took inspiration from music and cultures of the Mediterranean, especially Italy and North Africa which he had experienced on his travels. He also held a passion for French music. Szymanowski wrote his Violin Concerto No. 1 in 1916. It is one of several masterpieces he composed during the time of the Great War, especially his Symphony No. 3 “The Song of the Night” and FirstString Quartet. In the First Concerto, Szymanowski was inspired by lines from “May Night”, Tadeusz Miciński’s symbolist poem with a fantasy element. The Concerto is a lyrical single-movement work with individual parts. Meyers plays it ravishingly, with the utmost care and attention, and the results are impressive. In the opening section marked Vivace assai it is hard to resist the meltingly tender beauty of the writing contrasted with shimmering colour and thrilling drama.
The final work on the album, Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, rapsodie de concert, often gets tagged onto the end of an album, as it does here. It was commissioned by celebrated British-Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi who in 1924 premièred the score in London. Ravel orchestrated the piano part, and the version for violin and orchestra was introduced at Amsterdam the same year by Samuel Dushki and Concertgebouw under Pierre Monteux. A virtuosic work with a distinct Hungarian Roma character sees Meyers respond with considerable assurance, providing colour and no shortage of style.
Recorded at Air Studios, London, the warm sound is first-class, clear, detailed and well balanced. My only grumble is with the timing which at under fifty minutes is meagre by current standards. There is room, for example, to have accommodated either the Rautavaara Violin Concerto or the Szymanowski Second Violin Concerto.
Meyers is on sparkling form. Her intonation is flawless and the lavish amount of tone colour she produces from her 1741 Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù violin is remarkable. The outstanding Philharmonia provides model support. Kristjan Järvi draws playing of impressive warmth together with convincing feel for the music.