Interview with Sabine Meyer
My clarinet is a very old one. She’s about 20 years old and she’s one of the best. I’ve tried others from this time, but it’s very good old wood and we work together. With the clarinet, everything depends on the mouthpiece and the reed. They have to work together, and depending on how the wood is (how the material is, how it’s been processed) that’s how the sound is. Our voice is this small piece of wood and it’s always changing. If I fly from Vienna to Australia, I can only hope that it’s still working. With air pressure and humidity it gets wet, it gets dry, it gets wet again. It’s always changing and mostly that’s not positive!
When you travel to Australia, what do you need to do?
I have enough material with me, and a new development – hydro-boxes for the reed. These are special boxes which hold a stable humidity. But there’s still the matter of air pressure, depending on your altitude. When I used to fly from Munich to Berlin all the time, it was always difficult. In Berlin it was incredibly easy to play, but in Munich the reeds were unbelievably heavy, just because of the couple of hundred metres difference in altitude. And you just think, “God help me”! You have to play in the evening, and you have to be sure that your material will work. That’s always an adventure.
You’re playing with a quartet you haven’t played with before, and playing a work by a composer you haven’t worked with before. What made you decide to take both these risks at the same time?
It’s all new! It’s very new for me. Normally I know the chamber musicians very well. But I’m very much looking forward to what’s coming! I listened to some CDs from the Modigliani String Quartet, and DVDs, and I was very excited to hear their concerts. And I like to have new experiences.
What did you like about them?
They give a very professional impression, of course, but they also play in a very relaxed way. They’re very spontaneous. I found that a great deal comes across from the CD, and it’s often quite difficult to hear and experience what happens on the stage. I found that very exciting. Also musically, they are very easy-going. Normally I wouldn’t agree to play a piece by a composer I don’t know at all. So let’s see what happens!
This is your third trip to Australia, but your first as a chamber musician. What motivates you to travel?
It’s always nice to go to another country with another public and to play with new musicians. And there are fantastic halls in Australia. I remember very nice auditions and I have good friends in Australia from the last tour, so I look forward to coming. And good food. That’s very nice. That’s very important! Good fish.
Does it get on your nerves sometimes, that you and your husband are both clarinettists?
We’re often asked that. My brother also plays the clarinet. But it’s just how it is. There’s never the least kind of competition between us. It’s more like we enhance one another, because each of us has a wonderful musical personality, and everyone has his own direction. Reiner (husband) doesn’t want to play as many concerts or to be on the road as much as I am. He’s really happy with his concerts as they are, and with chamber music and teaching. And my brother does completely different things. Everyone has their own chamber music groups, so there’s no sense of competition. When we do play together, it’s just lovely. Because we understand each other so well, we’re able to make great music together. We’re such good friends that it’s very uncomplicated to make music together. When I play with my brother we don’t need to rehearse much. It just works.
Why do you play music?
That’s my life. That’s all I can say. That’s one thing where I can speak and all these emotions come out. I can say anything with this instrument. That’s one of the most important things in my life, to play music. It’s important for us as human beings It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s folk music, it doesn’t have to be a symphony concert, or classical music. Music in general is something that’s important for mankind, whether it’s folk music or jazz or pop.
Sabine Meyer tours Australia for Musica Viva with the Modigliani String Quartet from 5 November 2011.