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Violinist returns to Tucson for mariachi-based concerto

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers commissioned a mariachi-inspired violin concerto from Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. The performance is part of ¡Celebración Latina!

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Anne Akiko Meyers was blown away in 2017 when she first heard Mexican composer Arturo Márquez’s “Danzón No. 2.

“I couldn’t believe it was a living composer that had written it. It sounded so Ravel or Rimsky-Korsakov to me,” she recalled during a phone interview from home in California to talk about her concert with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra this weekend. “So coloristic and rhythmic. The melodies felt like melodies you had dreamt about and known for a long time.”

So Meyers did what she has been known to do over the past dozen or so years: She reached out to Márquez with a simple request — write her a concerto based on mariachi.

Of course, she had to find him first.

“He was a very elusive person, hard to track him down, but once he read this email, it deeply intrigued him,” she recalled. “He responded with, ‘Yes, I would love to.’”

That was in 2018. It took three years before Meyers premiered Márquez’s “Fandango” with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the storied Hollywood Bowl last August.

She is performing the Southwest premiere of the work with the TSO and Conductor José Luis Gomez in two performances this weekend: at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, both at the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

“It’s been quite the journey of creating this phenomenal work,” she said, describing the piece as one of the most physically challenging concertos she has ever performed. “It’s really a tour-de-force violin concerto.”

The fast-paced and technically tricky “Folia Tropical” opening movement of “Fandago” eats up 20 of its 35 minutes before settling into the “forbidden, delicious sensual dance” of the “Plegaria” (Prayer) based on the chaconne that Spain had outlawed during the Spanish Inquisition, Meyers said.

Then comes the final movement “Fandanguito,” which Meyers calls a “bat out of hell.”

“You just pray to the gods that you’re going to end up alive and make it to the finish line together with the orchestra,” she said with a laugh.

“It’s really like preparing for a triathlon. It just takes everything to perform this piece,” said Meyers, who made her debut with the TSO in 2018, performing Beethoven’s beastly Violin Concerto. “The second movement is very much like the mental soul and the heart of the concerto. But the third movement is so difficult ... ..It’s just like gymnastics for the violin.”

Meyers has performed “Fandango” a handful of times since she premiered it, including early this month with the Princeton Symphony in New Jersey. In November, she will perform the world-premiere of another work she commissioned, Michael Daugherty’s “Blue Electra,” with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. The piece is based on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Meyers, the mother of two young girls, said commissioning new works is like birthing and raising a child.

“And when it goes out into the world and is performed by other people, that is the greatest gift. It’s like it has found its way. It is living on its own,” she said. “It’s so empowering to perform it onstage and then to see it performed by other violinists.”

Meyer’s concert with the TSO is part of Gomez’s inaugural season-long ¡Celebración Latina!, which includes the cineconcert “Coco” on Oct. 29-30.

Tickets for “Fandango Fabuloso” are $18 to $90 through tucsonsymphony.org.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com. On Twitter @Starburch


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