The CHF3,000 Swiss recorders that play in the top league

Joel Meyer sticht mit dem Beitel das Labium, die dünne Holzzunge, die für die Klangproduktion der Blockflöte verantwortlich ist. Die Seitenränder des Labiums werden mit selbst hergestellten Spezialmessern in die definitive Form gebracht. Die Jungunternehmer müssen viele Werkzeuge selbst herstellen, weil sie im Verkauf nicht existieren. Ester Unterfinger/swissinfo.ch

The family business Meyerrecorders produces the world's best recorders. How do the three young entrepreneurs, Joel and Sebastian Meyer and Madeleine Imbeck, earn their living with this often underestimated instrument?

This content was published on December 25, 2019 - 11:00

It all started when Ernst Meyer, the father of Sebastian and Joel Meyer, dedicated himself to pure, dry music theory as a young man. He took up playing the recorder, but being dissatisfied with their sound, began to fine-tune the instruments he bought. Even this did not work, so he decided to make the instruments himself.

Strict teacher

Ernst Meyer made recorders for 40 years, achieving international recognition for his instruments. He trained his sons Sebastian and Joel in this art. Years of practice are required to master this precise craft. “My father was a strict teacher and never let up until absolute perfection was attained,” explains Joel Meyer.

After the death of their father, the brothers (aged 28 and 32) founded "Meyerrecorders" together with musician Madeleine Imbeck. They set up their workshops in Hemberg in the eastern canton of St Gallen. Neither of them originally intended to become recorder makers; Sebastian trained as a stone sculptor, and Joel wanted to study architecture.

The home and studio of Sebastian Meyer and his family on the Hemberg in Toggenburg. Ester Unterfinger/swissinfo.ch

Christmas time - recorder time

Many Swiss children become acquainted with the recorder at latest in first grade of school. For some, it is a burden as the instrument squeaks and whistles more often than emitting a pleasing note. This is why the recorder has fallen out of favour for beginners and most children quickly switch to another instrument. Except at Christmas, when it is dusted down once again.

The Meyers’ recorders play in a different league. It can take up to a year to make a single example, because the wood has to repeatedly dry out and rest. Once a recorder is finished, Madeleine Imbeck tests out its particular characteristics and sound. Once a musician has bought one of these masterpieces - costing between CHF2,600 and CHF3,400 ($2,650 to $3,460) – it is returned to the Meyers for fine-tuning.

The two recorder makers and musician in their workshop. Ester Unterfinger/swissinfo.ch

The business trio are united in their absolute devotion and passion for this instrument. No recorder leaves the workshop unless they are absolutely convinced by the sound it produces. “That is our reputation,” says Sebastian. “We had a gifted teacher who taught us to appreciate the sound of the instrument!”


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