Exclusive: Interview With Conductor Jeffery Meyer

Johannes Approves

by: Colin Oettle

Jeffery Meyer Interview
Today’s interview is with Dr. Jeffery Meyer. He is the Director of Orchestras at Ithaca College, Artistic Director of the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, and Artistic Director of the Water City Chamber Orchestra. Meyer will lead the opening performance of Ithaca College’s 09-10 season tomorrow night, Saturday October 3rd. One of the works on the program is Jeu de Timbres by Steven Stucky, who we interviewed yesterday (see his interview here).

Also scheduled is Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite), and Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique, op. 14. The concert takes place tomorrow night, Saturday October 3rd, at 8:15pm in Ford Hall, Ithaca College.

Please click on through for the video interview and full written transcript.

Sound Post News: Hi everyone this is Ian with another Sound Post News Video Blog.

Here with me today is Dr. Jeffery Meyer, Director of Orchestras at Ithaca College, also the Artistic Director of the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic. Thank you Dr. Meyer for being with us today.

We’re here to talk about the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra. Tomorrow night, Saturday October 3rd, opens the 2009-2010 season. On the program is Stucky, Ravel, and Berlioz. Could you tell us a little bit about this program and what inspired you to choose this repertoire?

Jeffery Meyer: Well, the Berlioz is the centerpiece of the program. It’s interesting—I don’t know if you were paying attention—both one of the early concerts with Dudamel and LA Phil was Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. There’s an incredible recording available on iTunes with that performance. And also the debut of Alan Gilbert with New York Phil was also Berlioz. It’s interesting—I didn’t know these things were going on, but I don’t think it’s just in the air. I think this piece is a showcase for both orchestras and conductors. So it’s been on my list to do with this orchestra for some time. It is such a virtuosic showpiece for everyone involved. So the program started with that germ. And then I spoke to Steve Stucky earlier in the spring I think, about a piece that would be appropriate to do here. I’m not sure if you know, but Steve is turning 60 this year—so it’s a big anniversary—and I thought it would be the right time to do something of Steve’s. So he suggested this as a possibility. And the program then is filled out with Ravel. And the whole program then falls within this kind of French orchestral idea, so there’s a real unity to the program which I like a lot.

SPN: If you haven’t caught it yet, Steven Stucky did a great interview with us yesterday (link). He talked about his piece Jeu de Timbres—as he said yesterday, lots of French moments and we’ll see it tying together. So tomorrow night, first concert of the season, what do you look forward to most in working with the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra as compared to your experiences with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic?

JM: Well there’s a few things. The exciting part about working with younger musicians: the growth rate is fast but of course the rehearsal cycle is over a longer period of time. With a professional orchestra you come in, you conduct 3-4 rehearsals, have a concert, and it’s done. But there’s a development process that happens over 5 or 6 weeks of rehearsal which is very exciting to partake in. And as a conductor I get to dig into these works in a deeper way than I do in some ways working with professionals, because I have to take apart everything. Nothing happens by itself really. So I get to know the work in a really intimate way. And then to watch the students grow is pretty fascinating and exciting. This is a very large undertaking for a first concert, and there’s a lot of younger players in this orchestra because there was a big incoming class this year. I sort of feel like I took most of the players, especially the first year players, and threw them into the deep end of the orchestral waters to see if they would swim, and they are.

SPN: As Mr. Stucky said yesterday, his piece Jeu de Timbres is a showpiece designed for a professional caliber orchestra, and he seemed pleased with how the orchestra is doing—and we all know Berlioz is not a walk n the park either.

JM: No, it’s virtuosic for everybody. Everybody has something to do. I don’t think there’s an instrument that’s not called upon to do something difficult and extraordinary. It’s a great piece. And Steve’s piece, it quotes Ravel as you know—I watched the interview this morning—and then we play Ravel right after that, so the program has a really nice flow to it.

SPN: So for the most part it’s very high energy, very French.

JM: Yeah, although the Ravel is certainly the most calm of all the pieces. Steve’s piece is brilliant—it was written as an encore so we’re using it as an opener. It sort of fills the same function to either start or end something with great energy. And then the Ravel is mostly calm, beautiful wind solos. It calls on every instrument in the wind section, including a very difficult contrabassoon solo, which Noah is doing a very good job on. And that’s a little bit more calm. The whole Ravel piece inhabits a more quiet, fairy like role. And of course Berlioz is off the deep end.

SPN: Certainly a concert to catch. Again the concert is at 8:15pm tomorrow night, October 3rd in Ford Hall at Ithaca College.

2 Responses to “Exclusive: Interview With Conductor Jeffery Meyer”

  1. Ian says:

    I felt like someone was watching me..

    • Barbara says:

      2 very interesting interviews with Dr. Jeff Meyer and composer Steven Stucky! Ian and Colin, you’ve put together an awesome site for up-to-date music news.



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