Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers: Barber’s Violin Concerto is still a thrill

Listen Now
10min 35sec
Photo: Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers performs Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto in three concerts this weekend with the Colorado Symphony.

The Barber piece is a cornerstone of Akiko Meyers’ repertoire. She recorded it for her debut disc in 1988 and, after performing it more than 1,000 times, released a fresh interpretation on her 2014 disc “American Masters.”

The piece still challenges and excites her, she said.

“It’s a really great dialogue between orchestra and violin -- with the violin just starting in right from the very first note with the orchestra,” she said. “It’s nice to come out on stage and say, 'Hi. Here we go. Let me tell you this beautiful story.'”

Photo: Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers during interview
Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers visits CPR Classical for an interview.

The concerto had a difficult birth. Barber wrote it in 1939 as a feature for violinist Iso Briselli, who complained the music wasn’t virtuosic enough. Barber added a short, vigorous “perpetual motion” third movement to placate Briselli, but the violinist remained unsatisfied and asked for further revisions. When Barber declined, Briselli refused to play the piece.

Today, it's one of Barber's most popular pieces.

“I’m really, really thrilled that Barber stuck to his guns,” Akiko Meyers told CPR Classical this week.

Her Colorado Symphony performances at Boettcher Concert Hall -- set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday -- are part of the orchestra’s American Festival. CPR Classical will air music from the concerts on March 28.

Click the audio above to hear Akiko Meyers talk about why she adores the Barber concerto, her collaboration with composer Mason Bates, and what it’s like to work with Colorado Symphony Music Director Andrew Litton.