Anne Akiko Meyers | Photo by David Zentz
For Mothers’ Day, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is releasing a recording of a work that holds a very special place in her heart, called Estonian Lullaby, a piece written for her by Arvo Pärt. She says she’d been a “crazy fan” of his for decades, starting to perform his works in the 1990s. In 2015, she was able to meet him, when she was going to be recording much of his violin orchestral music. Three years later, he invited her to play a series of concerts at the cultural center bearing his name in Laulasmaa, Estonia. It was there that he heard the lullaby that John Corigliano had written for her first daughter, Natalie.
“He was so enchanted by this lullaby. I think the seed was planted then, and before Christmas last year, I got this big FedEx from Estonia, and I thought, what could that possibly be? I opened it thinking it was just a giant Christmas card, and I was just speechless. I could not believe my eyeballs when I opened up this handwritten manuscript of his beautiful score of Estonian Lullaby, dedicated to me. And then I cried. Like a baby, for quite some time, because I was just in complete disbelief.”
She recorded it in January with childhood friend Reiko Uchida, not knowing that it would soon be difficult to get back into the studio. It’s a brief piece, with the end hanging in the air like a story being read to a child who’s just fallen asleep.
“That is the irony of Arvo Part’s music,” Meyers says. “It sounds so simple, it looks simple on the printed page. But it is so difficult to convey. All these shades of color, and he loves silences, and pauses, and the simplest things are the most difficult to pull off. And it’s really like Mozart in that way. There’s a feeling of meditation within it, because you have to be so listening to your internal self, but making the notes really sing and breathe, simplistically, without over-fussing and getting too busy and overthinking things. It’s a very fine, delicate line that one walks whenever performing his music.”
“I keep his handwritten manuscript on my desk, so I can look at it every day, because to me it’s really like the Holy Grail. I can’t believe that he… not only wrote me a beautiful Christmas card, but sent me this music. I was just floored. Beyond floored.”
Meyer’s second daughter, Andie, had already chosen a work by Arvo Pärt as her favorite going-to-sleep music. “Natalie really lucked out getting John Corigliano’s score, and insisted on playing that every night. And then when Andie came along, (she’s now 8) she said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I get a lullaby too.’ So she chose Spiegel im Spiegel as her lullaby. So they alternate nightly. But now with this new Estonian Lullaby, I think that’ll mix things up a little bit. It’ll be really an added pleasure to the night routine, hearing these beautiful pieces.