The Vancouver Symphony is starting its season in high style with the return appearance of one of the world’s top violinists, Anne Akiko Meyers.
Acclaimed around the globe for her stellar performances, Meyers has been featured on 34 albums, topped the Billboard charts for traditional classical instrumental soloist, and appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning,” “The Tonight Show,” and NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
She plays the Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri dl Gesu violin, which was built in 1741. “The Economist” reported that it was purchased in 2012 for over $16 million by an anonymous buyer and given to Meyers for lifetime use.
In 2015, Meyers dazzled the Vancouver audience with her performance of Bernstein’s “Serenade.” This time, she returns to Skyview High School Concert Hall to captivate the orchestra’s patrons with Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane” and Camille Saint-Saens’ “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.”
Ravel wrote “Tzigane” after attending a party where Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, a grand-niece of the great 19th-century violinist Joseph Joachim, entertained everyone with gypsy tunes. Inspired by her playing, Ravel composed “Tzigane” for violin and piano with a special attachment called a lutheal, which makes the piano sound like a cimbalom. Afterward, he set the piece for violin and orchestra.
If you go
• What: Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers plays Ravel and Saint-Saëns.
• When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.
• Cost: $50 for reserved seats, $38 for general admission, $34 for seniors and $10 for students.
” ‘Tzigane’ offers one of the most virtuoso display of fireworks for a violinist,” said Meyers. “The opening cadenza for the soloist lasts about four minutes. The orchestra comes in with a definite flourish. That is one of the most difficult sections for a harpist. The harpist and string come in sounding like the ocean wave. You can feel the color and scope of the orchestra. The massive sound just hits you in a gorgeous way.”
But “Tzigane” is more than just virtuosic piece for the violinist, and Meyers loves to communicate its storyline.
“To stand in front of the orchestra and really sing my story as a gypsy is wonderful,” Meyers said. “The piece has so much emotion, expression and color. It’s a song about the perils and dangers and love that this gypsy has experienced. So the music becomes very personal.”
The “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” has been one of the most popular pieces for violin and orchestra ever since Saint-Saens uncorked it in 1863.
“I’ve played the ‘Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso’ many times,” said Meyers. “It’s such a charming piece. Saint-Saens wrote it for the great Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate. I think that the composer wanted it as the last movement of his first violin concerto. The beautiful Introduction is expressive and soft. Then it goes into a Spanish-style section that has scintillating fireworks. It’s quite the workout. Sometimes, I think that I’m running a marathon with my fingers!”
Although Meyers will attract a lot of attention at the season opener, the orchestra under music director Salvador Brotons will also play Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Symphonic Dances” and two of Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances.” Rachmaninov completed his orchestra suite in 1940, and it was the last piece that he wrote — and the only one that he composed in its entirety while living in the United States. Its music contains Russian-inflected themes, including some from Russian church music and the “Dies Irae” from the Requiem Mass.
The “Slavonic Dances” are beloved for their robust, colorful and rhythmic patterns. Dvorak invented each melody and they are guaranteed to put you squarely in the countryside of Bohemia.
Returning to Meyers, the 47-year-old, award-winning violinist has not slowed down a bit.
“Finding time at home to practice is an art in itself,” she said. “This year, I have been performing all over the planet, and almost every week I was performing something different. So I printed out a calendar and wrote down what I was playing to keep it clear in my head. On top of that, I have two young daughters who are 5 and 7 years old. Getting them to school and everything else can be a chore! Sometimes you feel like you are an army sergeant — hup, two, three — this is the way it’s going to go!”
Meyers will not only play at the concert, she will also be a special guest at the orchestra’s annual gala, which will take place afterward.
“It’s great to return to Vancouver,” she added, “to play with a beautiful sounding orchestra and a wonderful maestro who is so committed.”