Music News & Reviews

CD review: ‘The American Masters’

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Works from 3 generations of composers

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers’ latest CD brings together beautiful, engaging works by American composers from three succeeding generations.

Samuel Barber’s 1941 Violin Concerto was rejected by its commissioning artist but soon became a beloved example of the form. Meyers applies her now-familiar rich, warm tone and subtle, emotional approach to the melancholic first movement and yearning second movement. She takes the third’s buzzing intensity in stride, building relentlessly to its climax. Conductor Leonard Slatkin supplies sensitive, buoyant support with the London Symphony Orchestra. Other recordings are more aggressively interpreted but this lyrical version satisfies.

Barber was a longtime mentor to John Corigliano. In 2010, Meyers commissioned Corigliano to write a lullaby for her newborn daughter, Natalie. Originally for violin and piano, the 5-minute piece was orchestrated in 2014 by the 76-year-old composer and premiered at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro. Here Meyers invests the quiet lullaby with loving sweetness, the orchestra underpinning it with delicate dissonances.

Corigliano, in turn, has been mentor to 37-year-old award-winning composer Mason Bates. Meyers commissioned him for this 25-minute piece that she premiered in 2012.

Bates uses the Archaeopteryx (a dinosaur-bird hybrid) as his inspiration. The first movement’s syncopated, catchy rhythms percussively underpin the busy, swirling violin line that develops into a heartfelt melody. The second movement takes it into mysterious, exotic mode, floating it along into the third’s bright, fluttery phrasings that speed toward an exciting finish. It’s a confident work that holds up under repeated listening.

Correspondent Roy C. Dicks

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