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Edgar Meyer

In demand as both a performer and composer, Edgar Meyer has formed a role in the music world unlike any other. Hailed by The New Yorker as “the most remarkable virtuoso in the relatively un-chronicled history of his instrument,” Meyer’s unparalleled technique and musicianship, in combination with his gift for composition, has brought him to the fore, where he is appreciated by a vast, varied audience. His uniqueness in the field was recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.

As a solo classical bassist, Meyer can be heard on a recording with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, led by Hugh Wolff, performing works by Bottesini—the Bass Concerto No. 2 as well as the Gran Duo with violinist Joshua Bell—and his own Concerto in D for Bass as well as his Double Concerto for Bass and Cello with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’s also recorded an album featuring three of Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites (performed on the double bass), and in 2006, he released the eponymous Edgar Meyer album, on which he wrote and recorded all the music and played the piano, guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, and gamba in addition to the double bass. In 2007, in recognition of Meyer’s wide-ranging recording achievements, Sony BMG released a compilation called The Best of Edgar Meyer. In 2011, Meyer joined Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan for the Sony Masterworks recording The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which won the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. Meyer was honored with his fifth Grammy Award in 2015, for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, for his Bass & Mandolin record with Thile. His most recent recordings include Bach Trios with Ma and Thile, released in 2017, and the 2020 release Not Our First Goat Rodeo, a follow-up to The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

As a composer, Meyer has carved out a remarkable and unique niche in the musical world. In 2017, the Nashville Symphony premiered his New Piece for Orchestra, which the symphony co-commissioned with the Aspen Music Festival and School. That same year, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and the Bravo! Vail Music Festival commissioned Meyer to write his Overture for Violin and Orchestra, which Bell premiered and performed on the Academy’s 2018 tour of the United States. Previously, in 2012, Bell and Meyer premiered Meyer’s Concerto for Double Bass and Violin with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. The two artists also performed the work at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Aspen Music Festival, and with the Nashville and Toronto symphony orchestras.

In 2012, Meyer served as composer-in-residence with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, which premiered his third concerto for double bass and orchestra with Meyer as soloist. He’s collaborated with banjo player Béla Fleck and tabla player Zakir Hussain to write The Melody of Rhythm, a triple concerto for double bass, banjo, and table that the Nashville Symphony commissioned for the opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The trio recorded the concerto with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Leonard Slatkin, on the 2009 recording The Melody of Rhythm, which featured a collection of pieces co-composed by Meyer, Fleck and Hussain.

Meyer has performed his second double bass concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and his first double bass concerto with Minnesota Orchestra, led by Edo de Waart. Other compositions of Meyer’s include a violin/piano work that Bell performed at New York’s Lincoln Center; a quintet for bass and string quartet premiered with the Emerson String Quartet and recorded on Deutsche Grammophon; a Double Concerto for Bass and Cello premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by Seiji Ozawa, and featuring Ma and Meyer as soloists; and a violin concerto written for Hilary Hahn, who recorded the work with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, led by Hugh Wolff.

Collaborations continue to be a central part of Meyer’s work. In 2017, he collaborated with fellow bassist Christian McBride to showcase their original music. Also in 2017, he toured the US with Ma and Thile, performing works from their Bach Trios recording. Meyer’s previous performing and recording collaborations include duos with Thile; a duo with Fleck; a quartet with Bell, Sam Bush, and Mike Marshall; a trio with Fleck and Marshall; and a trio with Ma and Mark O’Connor. The latter collaboration was for the 1996 release Appalachia Waltz, which soared to the top of the charts and remained there for 16 weeks. The trio toured extensively in the US in support of Appalachia Waltz, including appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman and the televised 1997 Presidential Inaugural Gala. The trio toured again in 2000 and recorded a follow-up album, Appalachian Journey, which was honored with a Grammy Award. In 2007, Meyer premiered a piece for double bass and piano with Emanuel Ax. Meyer also performs with pianist Amy Dorfman, his longtime collaborator for solo recitals featuring both classical repertoire and his own compositions; Mike Marshall in duo concerts; and as part of a trio with Fleck and Hussain on tours of the US, Europe, and Asia.

Edgar Meyer began studying bass at the age of five under the instruction of his father and furthered his studies with Stuart Sankey. In 1994, Meyer received the Avery Fisher Career Grant, and in 2000, he became the only bassist to receive the Avery Fisher Prize. He currently serves as a visiting professor of double bass at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.