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My teacher, Wolfgang Meyer

Trio di Clarone, from left: Reiner Wehle, Sabine Meyer, Wolfgang Meyer

After I finished my undergraduate music degree at Western Michigan University in the late 1990’s, I studied in Europe with German clarinetist Wolfgang Meyer. I had long enjoyed his recordings and desired to learn from his traditional German approach. It was a wonderful experience to be his student for nearly two years at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Karsruhe.

Professor Meyer was an inspiring teacher. He could always demonstrate whatever piece of music I was working on just as fluently as if he were to perform it that evening. Despite the fact that his career took him all over the world, he still was very available to his students. One way he achieved that was to teach performance practice by actually performing alongside his students. Professor Meyer regularly played the bass clarinet, together with me and some other students, in a clarinet sextet. He booked us all sorts of gigs, and we played in small castles and on the radio. Once we even performed on television at the German Supreme Court. This much access to my teacher was important for me as I learned the ropes as a young performer.

I will never forget the first time I had a concert with Professor Meyer. In fact, it happened by accident. It was my first performance in Germany, just a couple weeks after my arrival. Professor Meyer arranged a house concert and I was to perform some chamber music.

Professor Meyer drove the violist, the cellist, and me to the venue. There was no room in the car for the violinist, so he had to make the 30-mile trip by train. We waited for quite some time, but the violinist didn’t come. Later we learned he had actually traveled to the wrong town, one that happened to have the same name! I couldn’t believe what happened next. Wolfgang grabbed the violin part, tied a reed to his clarinet, and nodded toward stage, “OK, let’s go.” “Let’s go where?” I thought. Before I had time to process what was happening, he had given the cue to begin. He read at sight the violin part while transposing at the same time. I was beside myself. Not only did he perform beautifully, never missing a single note, he playfully tossed embellishments for me to mimic. The patrons were thrilled with the concert, having heard some beautiful pieces while hosting a celebrity performer in their home

Three basset horns.

Professor Meyer takes pleasure in playing different types of clarinets. Together with his sister, Sabine Meyer, and her husband Reiner Wehle, he performs basset horn music in Trio di Clarone. A modern basset horn looks like a little bass clarinet. It is a clarinet pitched in F, hence the word “horn” in its name. “Basset” means it has an extension that permits it to plunge deeply into the bass clef.

The basset horn was popular beginning in the late eighteenth century and was prominent for about a hundred years thereafter. Its melancholically vocal quality in the upper register, along with its throaty bass notes, made this instrument one of Mozart’s favorites. It is a critical instrument in his final, unfinished work, the Requiem. It would be hard to imagine this funereal music without the somber timbre of the basset horn. Mozart did explore the lighter side of the instrument, however, having written them prominently into the famous Gran Partita Serenade, K361. Other composers to write for the basset horn were Beethoven, Mendelsohn, and Richard Strauss.

Trio di Clarone has reintroduced the basset horn to the public, which rarely gets a chance to hear this difficult instrument performed with such refinement. Audiences are in for a real treat when Trio di Clarone performs in Ann Arbor’s Rackham Auditorium on Saturday, February 4th. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

11/12 Chamber Arts Series

The 49th Annual Chamber Arts Series presents seven of today’s leading chamber groups performing both traditional and contemporary repertoire.

All performances take place at Rackham Auditorium.

Subscription packages go on sale to the general public on Monday, May 9, and will be available through Friday, September 17. Current subscribers will receive renewal packets in early May and may renew their series upon receipt of the packet. Tickets to individual events will go on sale to the general public on Monday, August 22 (via and Wednesday, August 24 (in person and by phone). Not sure if you’re on our mailing list? Click here to update your mailing address to be sure you’ll receive a brochure.

Emerson String Quartet
Sunday, September 18, 4pm

Formed in the bicentennial year of the United States, the Emerson String Quartet took its name from the great American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. This return appearance features the quartet in an all-Mozart program, including his three quartets commissioned by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II.

The Late Quartets:  “King of Prussia”

Mozart | Quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575 (1789)
Mozart | Quartet No. 22 in B-flat Major, K. 589 (1790)
Mozart | Adagio and Fugue in c minor, K. 546 (1788)
Mozart | Quartet No. 23 in F Major, K. 590 (1790)

St. Lawrence String Quartet
Saturday, November 12,  8pm

One of the great finds of the 09/10 season was the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which made its UMS debut during its 20th season in a stellar program of Haydn, Ravel, and John Adams. The SLSQ appears twice with UMS in the 11/12 season; they also perform a new work by John Adams with the San Francisco Symphony as part of the Choral Union Series in March.

Haydn | Quartet No. 57 in C Major, Op. 74, No. 1 (1793)
R.M. Schafer | Quartet No. 3 (1981)
Golijov | New Work (composed for SLSQ) (2011)
Haydn | Quartet No. 61 in d minor, Op. 76, No. 2 (“Quinten”) (1796-97)

Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie, conductor
Maurice Steger, recorder

Saturday, January 28,  8pm

The chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy borrows its name from the renowned string orchestra of the court of the French kings. Based in Québec City, the group has a core membership of 15 players who were brought together in 1984 for music director Bernard Labadie. They specialize in the vast repertoire of music for chamber orchestra, performed in the stylistic manner most appropriate to each era.

W.F. Bach | Overture in g minor (originally attributed to J.S. Bach, BWV 1070)
Telemann | Concerto for Recorder in C Major, TWV 51:C1
Scarlatti | Concerto Grosso in Seven Parts, No. 3 in F Major, No. 3
Vivaldi | Concerto for Recorder in c minor, RV 441
Geminiani | Concerto Grosso No. 12 in d minor, “La Folia” (after Corelli)
Geminiani | Concerto for Recorder in F Major (after Corelli)

Sabine Meyer and the Trio di Clarone
Saturday, February 4,  8pm

In addition to developing a systematic training program for the clarinet and breeding horses, Sabine Meyer is regarded as one of the most outstanding soloists of our time. She was solo clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic, a position she left as she became increasingly in demand as a solo artist. Today, in addition to her solo appearances, she performs in two chamber ensembles, including the Trio di Clarone, whose other members are her husband and her brother. Trio di Clarone began in 1983, in part because of their shared interest in the basset horn, a rare instrument in the clarinet family that was used in Mozart’s Requiem and in his five divertimenti written for a trio of basset horns.

Mozart | Three Arias from The Marriage of Figaro
Poulenc | Sonata for Two Clarinets
Stravinsky | Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo
J.S. Bach | French Suite No. 5 for Two Clarinets and Basset horn
Mozart | Divertimento No. 1 for Three Basset horns, K. 439b
C.P.E. Bach | Duo for Two Clarinets in C Major, Wq. 142
Mozart | Four Arias from Cosi fan tutte for Three Basset horns

Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra
Friday, February 10,  8pm

The 20 members of the Shanghai Traditional Chamber Ensemble are drawn from the first large-scale modern orchestra of traditional instruments in China. While Chinese stars such as Lang Lang have brought new attention to Western classical music in China, this ensemble provides a window into the traditional Chinese classical music that dates back centuries.

Hagen Quartet
Thursday, February 23,  8pm

Regarded internationally as one of the foremost string quartets of the day, the Hagen Quartet consists of the two brothers Lukas (violin) and Clemens (cello) and their sister Veronika Hagen (viola), along with violinist Rainer Schmidt, who has been with the group for more than 20 years. For this return performance, the Hagen Quartet presents a program of Beethoven quartets, as part of UMS’s focus on musical renegades.

Beethoven | String Quartet in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1
Beethoven | String Quartet in f minor, Op. 95
Beethoven | String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74

Pavel Haas Quartet
Wednesday, April 18,  8pm

Based in Prague, the Pavel Haas Quartet is named for Czech composer Pavel Haas, who was imprisoned at Theresienstadt and died at Auschwitz in 1944. While the Quartet is passionately committed to the Czech repertoire, and particularly the three wonderful string quartets that Haas composed, all their performances receive extraordinary acclaim.

Tchaikovsky | Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11
Pavel Haas | Quartet No. 2, Op. 7 “From the Monkey Mountains”
Smetana | Quartet No. 1 in e minor, “From My Life”

Return to the complete chronological list.