Meyer’s performance the stuff of great artistry – The Australian

Mark Coughlan, The Australian
November 07, 2011

WHEN it came to Sabine Meyer, Herbert von Karajan got it absolutely right. Nearly 30 years ago, the autocratic conductor controversially selected Meyer, a gifted young clarinetist, to join the Berlin Philharmonic at a time when women were excluded from the orchestra.

Although Meyer’s tenure in Berlin was uneasy and shortlived, the scandal helped launch an international career and history has shown that Karajan had identified an extraordinary musical talent.

Meyer is touring Australia for Musica Viva, performing clarinet quintets with the Modigliani String Quartet. Hearing her in live performance is an exhilarating experience. Meyer’s playing has a natural fluency that seems to flow from within as she bends and sways to the musical contours. Her phrases unfold with graceful elegance, simple and uncontrived, the stuff of great artistry.

In Songs from the Bush by Australian composer Ian Munro, Meyer brought an expressive lyricism to the clarinet part. In the second movement, she showed impeccable control, her playing often whisper-soft but always with beautiful tone quality.

This movement was particularly effective, the gently pulsating string accompaniments to Meyer’s long, romantic melodies creating an expressively charged stillness.

It was in Mozart’s celebrated clarinet quintet that Meyer really showed her capabilities. The subtle intricacies of the musical interplay and the sublime simplicity of the melodic writing were captured with effortless mastery. In every phrase, Meyer spun a perfectly formed line, her tone quality hauntingly beautiful, her superb technique at the service of a higher musical purpose.

Performing with such a renowned artist must have been a challenge and a thrill for the Modigliani quartet. Although still a relatively young ensemble, having played together for only eight years, the quartet has already received a number of accolades and has been provided with fine old Italian instruments.

Quality of sound is also an important feature of the quartet. They play with a warm, mellow tone, well blended, with the middle voices prominent enough to ensure a rich depth to the sonority.

Seemingly inspired by Meyer’s craftsmanship, the quartet was at its best in the two quintets, playing with delicate sensitivity and rhythmic buoyancy. In Schumann’s A major string quartet, the results were less consistent, especially in the middle movements, which struggled to maintain musical focus throughout. The finale by contrast was highly energised with excellent ensemble and a sense of musical purpose.


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About Musica Viva Australia

Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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