Memorable musical performances, the clarinet and conducting

Memorable musical performances, the clarinet and conducting

An interview with Paul Meyer

French clarinetist Paul Meyer is an internationally recognised soloist and conductor with over forty CD releases to his name. He has given numerous world-premiere concerto and chamber music performances as either clarinet soloist or conductor. His most recent recording as a conductor, with the Brussels Philharmonic, features works by John Corigliano and Eliott Carter. His career has taken him to Suntory Hall, Hollywood Bowl, as well as the Concertgebouw, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, the Musikverein, Carnegie Hall, Tchaikovsky Hall, Albert Hall, Berlin Philharmonie.

Omega’s Artistic Director David Rowden says: “This will be a big night for me personally, as my long time mentor and friend Paul Meyer returns to Australia to perform what is without a doubt the finest work for the Clarinet, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. I first met Paul when I was 13 and he performed this work with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and got his autograph. On the 3rd November 2016 at City Recital Hall, not only will Omega Ensemble launch its 2017 season, but I will personally launch the Ensemble's debut album. I look forward to seeing you all there”.

We caught up with Paul before his arrival in Sydney to ask him a few questions about his upcoming visit to Australia to conduct and perform with his long-time friend David Rowden and the Omega Ensemble. Don’t miss this thrilling and invigorating concert featuring Mozart’s Basson Concerto and Symphony No.40 in G Minor alongside Haydn’s Symphony No.6 ‘Let Matin’ and to celebrate a musical milestone as Omega launches its debut album on the 3rd of November. 

This concert sees you return to Australia to conduct the augmented Omega Ensemble. What do you love most about performing with Omega?

I grew up playing in an orchestra, as both a soloist and in various combinations of small and large chamber ensembles. For me, an orchestra is an augmented form of a chamber music ensemble. Of course, at one point there is a need (for practical reasons) to have a conductor. My approach to conducting the Omega Ensemble is to lead them in a way that everyone will be involved in utilising their knowledge and skills in music making. I think that this is also what the Ensemble is looking for and this is why I am very thrilled about performing once again with Omega Ensemble.
You’re renowned as a both a
clarinetist and conductor. Do you approach each role differently and how do you approach the music as a conductor?

There are many differences between playing and conducting. I think to understand the situation clearly I’ll use a comparison to the acting world. The player would be the actor, and the conductor the stage director. As a conductor (and as a stage director) there is a lot of work that needs to be done before the first rehearsal, such as deciding which piece to play, but also to learn the piece, and to be ready to give an interpretation that makes sense.
During the rehearsal process, the conductor’s role is to prepare the orchestra in such a way that the musicians will know how they have to play their part, and how they can fit into the orchestra and, of course, the conductor’s key role is to keep the coordination between all musicians. All decisions, such as tempo, phrasing, nuances, voicing and volume (and other aspects) need to be decided and mostly organised during preparation.
Knowing how an orchestra works from different point of view is of course the best way to approach such a situation. Being also an active player is also very important, because it gives confidence to musicians that the conductor is also on their side. During the concert, as the conductor, you have to give a special energy, freedom, adventure and confidence that is required in any performance, even though as the conductor you produce no direct sound. 

A large part of your work has seen you give world premiere performances and recordings of new works. What is it like, for you, to return to some iconic gems of the classical period and conduct these for the Omega Ensemble?
Classical repertoire is something that I am preparing all the time. I am working on Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Dvorak Symphonies and Concertos all the time and these are an important part of my life. Being involved with a living composer and playing pieces for the first time is a vivid exercise. For instance, the first question that comes to the mind of a musician when he sees for the first time a new piece is: What does the composer want? What do I understand from the writing, how strong is this crescendo, or how loud is a certain dynamic? I feel these are all questions that we also have to ask our self when playing classical repertoire. 
When did you first meet David Rowden and how important is it to maintain collaborations with musical colleagues around the world?
I met David when he was still a kid. It was after one of the concerts that I played with Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Then I gave a class in a private academy in the South of France with David and two others students, and it was a very intense time of playing but also very nice moments of friendship that have continued to this day.  I think that some of the joy in being a musician is to share these musical moments, during a very long relationship. All the musical moments that David and I have shared together are important. David is a very talented musician, and I am sure that everyone will know about him very soon. I have had a chance to hear some of the edits of his recordings that include the Mozart and Ian Munro Clarinet Quintets and it is fantastic. 
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major is one of the most beautiful works composed for the clarinet. What is it about the clarinet that makes it such a lyrical instrument, like the human voice, and what makes this concerto one of the most popular?
To understand Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, it is important to look on his entire output of concerti. There is no need here to describe how many he wrote, but it is important to know that Mozart’s Piano concertos (starting from the early Piano Concerto No. 9 Jenamy (Jeunehomme) in E-flat major, K.271, which Charles Rose described as “perhaps the first unequivocal masterpiece of the classical style,” belong to what we refer to as ‘masterworks’. The clarinet has the ability to reproduce every inflection of the human voice, possess a density and smoothness that other instruments may not have.  
I think that the Clarinet Concerto is so popular because it is one of the best concertos ever written, alongside Beethoven’s violin, Brahms violin and a number of others. It is a piece that is ‘right at the top of music.’  Mozart is at his very best with this piece, writing for one of his best friends, Anton Stadler.

What can audiences expect from this concert?

The audience can expect to listen to two fantastic symphonies, from Haydn and Mozart and also two of the most beautiful concertos played by musicians that are 100% devoted to their art. All in a beautiful location, with a fantastic acoustic and I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of it!!!


Book Now, don't miss the last concert of Omega Ensemble for 2016.

Samuel Cottell

Samuel Cottell is a multi-verstalie musician (pianist, arranger and composer), writer, music journalist (Leader Writer -Cut Common Mag, Fine Music Magazine, Music and Literature, Jazz Australia and Australian, and biographer. Samuel is also an music educator and currently tutors music theory and analysis in the Arts Music Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Samuel is currently undertaking his PhD (Musicology) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he is researching the life and music of Tommy Tycho. Samuel has also been published in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and has interviewed world-acclaimed musicians Renee Flemming, Steven Isserlis, Maxim Vengerov, Stuart Skelton and local musicians Daniel Rojas,  Simon Tedeschi and Katie Noonan. As well as these activities Samuel is in demand as a program note writer (Nexas Saxophone Quartet) and gives pre-concert talks for The Grevillea Ensemble and appeared on Radio National's "RareCollections" talking about Tommy Tycho's recording career and contribution to music.