Paul Meyer is one of France's leading clarinetists, with a strong commitment to both contemporary music and neglected historical repertory. Meyer is also in demand as a chamber player.
Meyer was born in Mulhouse, France, on March 5, 1965. He studied clarinet as a child and then entered the Mulhouse Conservatory. Showing talent there, he made his debut with the Symphony Orchestra of the Rhine at age 13 and then moved on to the Paris Conservatory the following year. At 16, he won prizes in clarinet and chamber music there, and he went on to the Musikhochschule Basel to complete his education with Hans-Rudolf Stalder. In 1982, he won the Eurovision Song Contest for Young Musicians, and the following year, at 18, he began his professional career as a clarinetist with the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon. A win at the Young Concert Artists Competition in New York in 1984 brought him numerous bookings, and a stint in New York also brought him the acquaintance of jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman, who became a mentor.
In the 1980s, Meyer pursued a dual career as a clarinetist with the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris and with the Ensemble InterContemporain, conducted by Pierre Boulez. As a concerto soloist, he has appeared with such top orchestras as the BBC Philharmonic, the Dresden Philharmonic, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Meyer has championed contemporary music, including works by Stockhausen, Boulez, and Messiaen in his repertory and premiering several new clarinet works, including the Clarinet Concerto of Krzysztof Penderecki, a clarinet version of Penderecki's Viola Concerto. His repertory also includes concertos by such relatively obscure figures as Franz Danzi, Franz Krommer, and Ignaz Pleyel. An enthusiastic chamber music player, Meyer has attracted top-caliber collaborators such as soprano Barbara Hendricks, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and violinist Gidon Kremer.
Meyer's discography is varied. For some years, he recorded for the Denon label, releasing albums devoted to Pleyel and to 20th century unaccompanied clarinet music, among others. He moved to Erato in 1999 for a recording of the Brahms clarinet sonatas and Weber's Grand Duo Concertante, Op. 48, and has since recorded for ECM, RCA Red Seal, and Alpha, among other labels. He has also been active as a conductor, and in 2012, he recorded a complete cycle of Ludwig Spohr's clarinet concertos with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, conducting from his instrument. For Alpha in 2020, he recorded the album Vienne 1900 with a quartet of other chamber players. For six years, Meyer worked on the development of a new clarinet, the Divine2, for the Buffet Crampon maker.
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