Robert John Meyer, August 31, 1920 – May 15, 2016

Robert Meyer

Robert (Bob) passed away in a car accident in Prince Edward Island on May 15 2016. He died instantaneously at the scene of the accident.

Originally from London, England, he was invited to come to Canada, where he took a position as Principal Double Bassist with the VSO in 1965. He arrived in Vancouver after an illustrious career as a double bassist working with such fine ensembles as the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, The English Opera Group and even the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. His final gig was with the Sooke Symphony. Benjamin Britten, who composed several pieces with Robert in mind,   wrote “he was a fine musician” and was known as such throughout the world.

He was lovingly married for 52 years to Betty Lusted. He had two children, Nicholas and Julia, who married Ric Young, before she passed and they gave Bob a granddaughter, Isabel, who in turn has given him two great grandchildren, Julia and Savannah. He was a good husband and father.

I was very fortunate to have a father like him and so grateful for all the sacrifices he made to provide me with a solid education and moral values which helped me to succeed in life.

The Providence provided me with so much love that came from such special people as my father Robert and mother Betty.

I thank you both for everything and wish you both peace for ever lasting life.

Much love Nicholas

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  

On Benjamin Britten

Some of my memories of Benjamin Britten are described in this short video. I was also the librarian for the English Opera Group as well as Principal Bass.

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bass Playing Past and Present

In this video I discuss approaches to the instrument, auditions and my reflections as included in my book, The Bottom Line. Also I go into some of the tips I received for performance from de Sabata, Koussevitsky and others, and how these are included in my CD, Discovering the Double Bass.

Markneukirchen Instrument Makers

A visit to Markneukirchen, Germany, the home of many good instrument makers

Let me state right away that I have no connection with Alfred Meyer the bass makers, although I have the same surname, I am not paid by them to advertise their products and I am merely giving what I hope will be an interesting account of my visit to Markneukirchen, Germany.

My father came from a town near Markneukirchen and some time ago I visited there and resolved to have a look round the town which is small and devoted entirely to making musical instruments.

A further incentive was that the bass I play on was made by Eberhart Meinel who I tried to visit but I was told that the firm had gone out of business.

However, I was directed to the premises of Alfred Meyer, who, I was told, are now the premier bass makers in Markneukirchen. I was cordially welcomed and examined and played on six models.  All of them were well made and sounded very good.  I was very impressed with a five stringer, the model having won a prize.  Later that evening I went to a concert given by the Dresdener Staatskapelle.  All of the eight basses were five stringers from Alfred Meyer.

There was a copy of a Gaspar da Salo, a ¾ violinform, a ¾ Milano, a ¾ Verona, a 4/4 Alfred Meyer and a 3/4 Dracula, the latter having a carved head of Dracula instead of the usual scroll, and lightning zig-zags instead of the usual F holes. All were easy to play and to “get over”.

Considering that they were so beautifully made the cost (in Euros) was very reasonable.  As a professional they offered me a 10% discount and said they would ship to Canada.  It was very tempting, but I’m satisfied with my own bass and do not do a great deal of playing now so reluctantly I went away empty-handed but to anybody starting in the profession who needs a good, reasonably priced bass this is one of the places to look.

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Dynamics

Sometimes there are dubious dynamics in the printed parts. For instance, in the last movement of Beethoven’s 5th. Symphony there is a solo passage for cellos and basses with an accompaniment of the upper strings playing chords on the off beat. I remember de Sabata asking the upper strings to lower their fortissimo so as to let the cellos and basses be heard above the din.

In the Variations in Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” one variation is the Theme played by the cello and bass. The piano part is marked F or FF and invariably the pianist thumps it out drowning the cello & bass.

Sometimes the cello and bass part needs to be played really strongly, for instance in the opening of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”.

Opera and Ballet often need the principal bass to play up so as to set the tempo in the first bar or two of a piece such as Bertha’s aria in the last act of Rossini’s opera the “Barber of Seville”, or in the allegro in the first act of Verdi’s “La Traviata” after the first couple of bars intro.

It is only after much experience as a player that you can judge whether or not to decrease or increase the sound to make the bass part more viable. Usually an experienced conductor will tell you. There was a bass player who, when playing the” Messiah” put some very sticky resin on his bow and then declared to the conductor, “Now I’ll show you ‘Who is the King of Glory! ‘” Don’t make the mistake of trying to lead the orchestra: I can quote a conductor’s remark to Dragonetti. “Please, Signor Dragonetti, let me have my Orchestra back!”

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Preventing Physical Strain

Preventing Physical Strain and Sustaining one’s Health when playing the Double bass.
I have to write a disclaimer because I am not a medical doctor and these are only some observations I have made during my long career as a double bassist.

When I was at the height of my career I was very busy, and keeping my health was a necessity since if I did not work I was not paid.  I can remember only three occasions in over 60 years when I had to give up a date for health reasons.

Of course, genes have a lot to do with it.  I was as strong as a horse, but I ate right, exercised and slept well, but playing the bass does give rise to some physical problems.

Many bassists I knew developed a “widow’s hump” from sitting all day long hunched over a bass.  It is most important to get your playing position right.  The Alexander Technique can help you with this.  You can help yourself by seeing to it that the stool you sit on is adjusted properly.  One plague of bass players is varicose veins which you can help to avoid by slicing off the edge of your stool so that it doesn’t press into your inner thigh cutting off the circulation. Of course, sitting all day like a stork with one leg up and the other down doesn’t help.

Recently I realised that my body was out of alignement due to playing the bass for so long and I decided to consult a Rolfing practiioner.  After only one session I found it to be of great benefit.   You can Google it to find out all about it.

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yehudi Menuhin, Violinist

Menuhin’s standard of performance varied from concert to concert. Some of his performances were less than adequate, but that being said, when he was on form, which he mostly was, his playing was breathtaking. He had a glorious tone and a wonderful technique. What made him stand head and shoulders above most of the others was his great breadth of mind and his overall view of a piece. I think that his interest in Oriental philosophy and humanity in general helped him.I played with him many times, and once when I was playing with him at the Bath Festival he demonstrated some of his Yoga movements by standing on his head. Off stage he was a kind and gentle man, extremely courteous, and gave much to the cause of music.At one time I was trying to help young Canadian artists by forming Robert Meyer Artist’s Management, Menuhin helped me very much in this endeavour because he was doing the same sort of thing in England. I met with him and corresponded, but I was forced to give it up due to lack of funds, although I did succeed in launching a few on their musical career.Of all the concerto repertoire, I think his rendering of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was the best I have ever heard. Although Heifetz came very close with a more brilliant style, Menuhin gave it that extra something in depth and feeling.

Published in: on November 29, 2007 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Moving to Vancouver

There has been a short hiatus in this blog as Robert Meyer moved to Vancouver. However, he has been completing his soon-to-be released CD and book, The Bottom Line. More info on these coming soon.

Published in: on September 24, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming Book and CD

Here’s a short video explaining why I have written my upcoming book, The Bottom Line, with its accompanying CD that really shows what the double bass is capable of.

Published in: on June 7, 2007 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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