Violinist's sound sweet as a songbird's

Published May 26, 2007

TAMPA - Anne Akiko Meyers may be the most elegant violin soloist of her generation - a stellar class of virtuosos that includes Midori and Joshua Bell. Friday night, Meyers was heard in ideal repertoire for her, Vaughan Williams' romance for violin and orchestra, The Lark Ascending, some of the prettiest music ever written. Stefan Sanderling and the Florida Orchestra accompanied the violinist in the season's final masterworks program at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

From the opening solo over a low sustained chord in the orchestra, Meyers gave an ineffable performance, with a sweet, singing tone that created some deeply touching moments. The lark has a beautiful song, but it can't approximate what she does with a Stravidarius.

The orchestra had a supporting role, but there were melodious exchanges between Meyers and principal horn James Wilson. Her playing of the closing cadenza was immaculate. In response to a standing ovation, she gave a good-humored encore of Summertime.

Earlier this month, Sanderling and the orchestra seemed a bit stale in a Brahms symphony. But they sounded energized on Friday, and I think it was because of the challenge of James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, a requiem for a Scottish witch burned at the stake during the Reformation. With references ranging from Gregorian chant to folk fiddling, the 1990 work is reminiscent of Gorecki in its penchant for setting up a mildly dissonant fugue in the strings, punctuated by fierce brass and percussion. At times, the music repeats itself too much, but it is still fascinating.

The evening opened with the premiere of An Evil Tune for Jigging, a propulsive little piece by Paul Reller, who is on the music faculty at the University of South Florida. In a preconcert talk, Reller joked that his piece was "a cross between Led Zeppelin and Elliott Carter, " but it's actually more like a New Orleans jazz band crossed with Kraftwerk.

The concert wound up with Mendelssohn's great Scottish Symphony, which Sanderling took at a brisk, refreshing pace.

John Fleming can be reached at 727 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.


Florida Orchestra

The program is repeated at 8 tonight at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and 7:30 Sunday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $17-$52.