Violinist Meyers brings a musical smile to a summer night

By David Fleshler

The setting was gorgeous: the Spanish-revival interior of Coral Gables Congregational Church, a place of colonnades, pews, chandeliers and candelabras. And the soloist in Thursday evening’s concert was the American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, a musician whose informal style and unorthodox programming were ideal for a summer concert.

 Meyers makes a specialty of breaking from the traditional forms and venues of classical music. She made her national debut at 11 on the Tonight show with Johnny Carson. She performed her most recent New York recital at the Greenwich Village club, Le Poisson Rouge. Her latest recording, Smile, offers a mix of classical, popular and Japanese works, several of which appeared on her Coral Gables program, as part of the church’s Community Arts Program Summer Concert Series.

 Even veteran concertgoers probably were familiar with only two or three works on the program, but the music was undemanding on the audience, and to a large extent, the violinist. The works presented few obvious technical difficulties, giving Meyers little opportunity for virtuoso display. But these melodic works did allow her to show off what must be one of the lushest tones among contemporary violinists.

 Accompanied by the pianist Reiko Uchida, she opened with Haru no Umi, by Michio Miyagi, based on an old Japanese melody, in which Meyers’ wispy, ghostly playing was intended to evoke the tone of a bamboo flute. Then came her arrangement of Moonlight Over the Ruined Castle, by Rentaro Taki, another Japanese melody that allowed her rich, unforced tone to wrap around the music.

 Other short, melodic works—alternately mysterious, wistful and sultry—dominated the program, including Debussy’s Beau Soir and an arrangement of Gershwin’s Summertime. Of these, the most successful was Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror), a singing melody over slow-moving harmonies in the piano, one of those works after which the audience appears to need a moment to breathe before breaking into applause.

 Meyers said a few words before each work, with an engaging humor that helped shed light on this unfamiliar music. “It could sound a little disturbing to you; just to warn you, it sounds like a music box that’s died out,” she said, before launching into Alfred Schnittke’s Stille Nacht, a funhouse-mirror rendering of Silent Night, with dissonant harmonies and a bizarre ending in which she tuned down the lowest string of the violin. After the last weird note faded away, she said, “Thank you for staying.”

 The largest work on the program was Beethoven’s Spring Sonata (No. 5). The performance was clean and classical, and here the pianist had a chance to shine, bringing out Beethoven’s rapid figurations with fluency and musical intelligence.

 As an encore, Meyers gave the audience another lush melody, an arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

 The Community Arts Program Summer Concert Series continues through August. Go to or call 305-448-7421.

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Fri Jun 19, 2009
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