Violin Virtuoso

Anne Akiko Meyers debuts Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara's final violin concerto in Kansas City.

photo by Ainsley Joseph

   Widely acknowledged as one of Finland’s greatest composers, Jean Sibelius is often attributed with helping create Finland’s national identity in the aftermath of the country’s struggle for independence from Russia. His protégé, Einojuhani Rautavaara holds the unofficial honor of the country’s subsequent Sibelius. Rautavaara, who wrote eight symphonies, 14 concertos and several other works for chamber ensembles and choir, died a legend in July 2016.

   Of special note for Kansas City, Rautavaara’s final violin concerto will make its public world premiere at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts March 24-26, featuring American virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers on the violin alongside the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern.

    “I have loved Rautavaara’s music a long time and was thrilled when he agreed to write this work for me,” Meyers says. “His music is beautiful, colorful, haunting and poetic.”

   Meyers flew to Finland in December 2015 to meet Rautavaara, and they discussed at length his concerto he had written for her to perform, the Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra.  She first performed it for him and his wife at his Helsinki apartment, and she noted with awe that he made no edits to the piece after hearing it.

    “Little did I know Fantasia would be his final work for violin and orchestra,” Meyers says. “Sadly, he passed away last year, but this work will now live on forever. He was a very special composer.”

   In addition to performing the world premiere of Rautavaara’s Fantasia, and as part of the Kansas City Symphony Classical Series, Meyers also will perform Ravel’s Tzigane. The program also includes Nielsen’s Overture to Maskarade and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

   The last time Meyers was in Kansas City, she performed a recital and taught a masterclass at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

    “I went to school with violin professor Benny Kim,” she says. “I remember having a good time and eating the best steak!”

   As she prepares for the upcoming performance, she jokingly dismisses any fear of making mistakes.

    “I tell myself, ‘Don’t mess up,’” Meyers says. “Oh, but wait a minute, nobody has heard the piece!”  
   Meyers has toured actively for three decades, including with contemporary jazz trumpet player Chris Botti and with Il Divo’s Christmas Tour, and she regularly performs in recitals and as a guest soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras. Meyers is a best-selling recording artist, with 34 albums under her belt. In 2014, Meyers was the top-selling traditional classical instrumental soloist on the Billboard charts.

   March’s performance with the Kansas City Symphony also will mark Meyers’ first time performing with Michael Stern as conductor.

    “I am so looking forward to premiering this haunting work by Rautavaara with Michael [Stern] and the KC Symphony,” Meyers says.

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