Fantasia: Anne Akiko Meyers performs Szymanowski and Ravel

COMPOSERS: Ravel,Szymanowski
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Fantasia
WORKS: Rautavaara: Fantasia; Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1; Ravel: Tzigane
PERFORMER: Anne Akiko Meyers (violin); Philharmonia Orchestra/ Kristjan Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2385

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Anne Akiko Meyers commissioned Rautavaara to compose this Fantasia, and it was one of the Finnish composer’s final pieces before his death in 2016. Like many of his later works it’s elegiac in character, with a strong, lush tonal base: a warm cushion of orchestral sound supporting the continuous solo line, which hardly has a rest after the first entry. Meyers plays with intensity throughout, and it’s all very beautiful, but it’s not always easy to find a sense of direction in the music itself, and the end could have come earlier or later, without making that much difference.

There’s some lack of presence in the orchestral sound, especially in the strings, and this has an effect on the Szymanowski First Concerto, where textural detail in the intricate scoring is sometimes lost. Meyers again plays with an emotional charge, and with virtuosity in the more dynamic sections, although there could be greater variety of colour in her tone, especially where vibrato is concerned. The subtle rubato that the concerto needs often eludes Kristjan Järvi though: rather than moving fluidly between phrases, there’s a sense of a series of gear changes. This ebb and flow was perfectly caught in Vasily Petrenko’s conducting for Baiba Skride (on Orfeo), who also found a wider palette in the solo part.

Best recorded is the Ravel Tzigane, and Meyers attacks the opening cadenza with guts and determination. Later, some of the acrobatics are a little less assured, but Järvi is with her all the way, and this makes a good finish to a well-planned if short CD. 

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Martin Cotton