Sabine Meyer in Sydney

If you’re looking for an evening of exceptional entertainment, tonight, Musica Viva presents the world famous clarinettist Sabine Meyer with the Modigliani String Quartet performing the music of Ian Munro, ( a new commission) Claude Debussy and Johannes Brahms. Meyer performs again on Saturday afternoon 12th November.

Meyer shot to prominence when Herbert von Karajan appointed her principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1982. As if that wasn’t sufficiently noteworthy, she happened to be the first woman to join the orchestra. She has continued her career at the pinnacle of performance. Meeting the demands of a worldwide performing career, teaching her craft, and maintaining her personal life means that this is Meyer’s first visit to Sydney in 15 years. Sabine Meyer performs 80 concerts a year, teaches clarinet in her home town of Lubeck and has a busy home with her husband, two children, dog, two horses and farm.

 Asked if over the years she has learned to regenerate more quickly, Meyer says “No, it’s more important to have more time between the tours for me”. Being at home for short periods of time before travelling to the next concert is becoming less attractive. Fortunately, Meyer is of calibre where she can determine her schedule and factor in more time between tours. “Also”, she says,” I have students, and I have to be here and to teach the students. That’s my life. It’s not only the concert”.

Then there is her own practice. “When I was a student I used to practise 8 or 10 hours. The clarinet was there all day. You work regularly on basic things –  to build the foundations, and it always comes back to what you have to play. To work on new things, of course you need to take more time.  But I don’t play 8 hours a day any more.  There are days when I play for 4 or 5 hours, because I feel like it, but there are also days when I might only play 1 or 2 hours.  When I teach, I don’t play a further 5 hours. It’s really very variable.  Every day is different”.

Travelling from Europe to Australia instruments are affected, not always positively, by changes in air pressure, humidity  and temperature. None more so than the instruments of the woodwind. ” Wood is living material. It’s alive, it’s working”. For the Australian tour, Meyer is travelling with newly developed ‘hydro-boxes’ for the reeds. The boxes control humidity, but not air pressure, which Mayer has found, even affects the reeds differently in cities as close together as Munich and Berlin. “In Berlin it was incredibly easy, and in Munich the reeds were unbelievably heavy.  Just because of the couple of hundred metres difference in altitude. You have to play in the evening, and you have to be sure that your material will work.  That’s always an adventure. Reed instruments do suffer from wear and tear, from the changes in humidity, and the pads need to be taken to an instrument-maker every year to be renewed and overhauled”.

Sabine Meyer plays on an instrument that is over 20 years old. “It’s absolutely the best there is” she says. Although the clarinet dates back to the 18th century, it continues to evolve. ” There is a German clarinet-maker Herbert Wurlitzer, an old manufacturer in the south of Germany, and he builds the best clarinets.  There have been ups and downs, but there are always innovations. There’s now a clarinettist from Bonn – they’ve developed a kind of bulb – a pear-shaped part which goes between the mouthpiece and the top of the instrument. You can rotate it and the intonation changes. If you’re too sharp, you turn it, and you’ll be a bit lower, and if you’re too flat, you turn it back… there’s always some kind of positive innovation”.

Watch for more news on Sabine Meyer through the week.

The programme:

Sydney Mon 7 Nov, 7pm, Canberra Thurs 10 Nov, 7pm

Ian Munro Clarinet Quintet, Songs from the Bush (2010)
Claude Debussy String Quartet in G minor, op 10
Johannes Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, op 115

PROGRAM TWO Sydney Sat 12 Nov, 2pm Newcastle Thurs 17 Nov, 7.30pm

Ian Munro Clarinet Quintet, Songs from the Bush (2010)
Robert Schumann String Quartet in A major, op 41 no 3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, K581

Sabine Meyer will also conduct a Masterclass at the  Sydney Conservatorium of Music, from 5-7pm on Friday 11th November


               Call 8256 2222 or book in person.

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