Edgar Meyer on His Violin Concerto

 

DSO: How did you establish such a diverse and multigenre career? I've read that you were raised in a household with classical music but also listened to Ray Brown and some folk artists, but some musicians I know have that kind of background, get into classical, and then only learn classical, to their regret.

Meyer: My father and his brother heard jazz when they were teenagers and both took up the bass with the intention of participating in jazz.  Later on in his 20's my father went to college and learned to read music and use a bow.  His mother was from the city and used to play some classical music on the piano.  Possibly the most exciting event in my first 8 years, or maybe ever, was when her piano and music collection came to reside in our house.  In particular, a tattered volume of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words gave me pleasure beyond measure.  At the time that I was born, my father's record collection was evenly divided between jazz and classical.  When I first started playing, my father played me an Oscar Peterson trio recording with Ed Thigpen and Ray Brown and told me that is how the bass is supposed to sound.  Ray has turned out to have a larger and more enduring influence on me than any other bass player.  The point of all this is to say that I grew up in a fairly hybrid household, musically speaking, with classical and jazz both held in high esteem.  My early upbringing was classical-centric in at least one regard, however.  When I was 5, my father concentrated relentlessly on fundamentals, trying to make sure that I could read music and use a bow from the beginning.  My interest in traditional/old-time/bluegrass came quite a bit later, starting more when I was 14 or 15.

 

DSO: How did the Violin Concerto come about?

Meyer: Peter Gelb, who was running SONY classical at the time, suggested that I write Hilary Hahn a violin concerto for a recording.  We both liked the idea and proceeded to execute it.

 

DSO: How widely has the Violin Concerto been performed in its lifetime? Do you know any violinists besides Hilary who have taken it into their repertoire?

Meyer: I have heard of five or six violinists performing it with orchestra.  There may be others.  American Ballet Theater had a ballet choreographed to it.  There has not been another violinist that learned it that plays often in front of the orchestra, in other words, all the violinists that have played it besides Hilary played it once or twice.

 

DSO: Probably most of the Dallas audience this weekend will be hearing the piece for the first time. Do you have any words for them, or what they should listen for?

Meyer: No preconceptions.  Just see if this music speaks to you.

 

DSO: How do you think a new classical work enters the accepted repertoire? What would you tell a young composer aspiring to that goal?

Meyer: I would tell a young that entering the repertoire is an imperfect goal.  The goal is to be involved in a volume and variety of music that is as beautiful as you can make it.

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