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15 Questions to Amanda Cook

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Good thanks. I'm at home and have been practising hard so have a sore back and arm!

What's on your schedule right now?
I have just finished recording a new solo CD called "Strictly Latin" which (yes, you've guessed it!) is full of music from Latin America. I am also about to record a CD of music by Joby Talbot with my chamber group G+, and finally. My trio "Appassionata" are off to America for a gig at the Portland Guitar Festival and I am also practising for a solo recital at the Wigmore Hall on March 17th - very exciting!

If you hadn't chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
Well I have always fancied being a TV food presenter - where you get to travel round the world and discover the different foods from different cultures. Or failing that I used to do a bit of acting so would probably have carried on with that.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
There have been many! Certainly my teachers, one of which, Charles Ramirez gave me the confidence to bring out my own personality in the music while I was studying at the Royal College of Music. One major external influence was Jacqueline du Pre - I used to watch a lot of footage from her concerts. I love the way she was so passionate about her music which seemed to really engage and excite the audience.

What's the hardest part about being a musician and what's the best?
One hard part can be motivating yourself if you don't have much work on and trying to remember the reasons why you do this mad job! Or the flip side of that is when you are really busy and trying to juggle all the projects. The best part is having the opportunity of sharing your love of music with audiences and them hopefully enjoying what you do!

What's your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I have mixed feelings - there is certainly part of our modern image-conscious-celebrity society that has rubbed off on the classical scene where the importance of glamour overides talent. But at the same time there are still a huge collection of amazing artists releasing albums and touring. The record industry have had to cut down on the number of artists they take on because not as many of us buy CDs anymore, what with iTunes etc, so I think musicians have to work extra hard to get noticed and appeal to audiences.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it's all been done before. What do you tell them?
If you feel you have something new and important to say with an old work then the public should welcome that. Also remember that classical music is being written as we speak so there is plenty of new stuff to release as well.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?
When a performer is at one with their instrument and communicates with the audience, this can result in a magical performance. I love playing for people and trying to make the performance a two way thing - where the audience feel part of the experience, not excluded. That can mean, on a basic level, giving them some info about the music you play, but on a more soulful level just bringing them into your own world of musical ideas!!

What does the word "interpretation" mean to you?
For me it means taking care to understand the context in which the piece was written i.e period it was written, something about the composer, inspiration that led to its composition -  sometimes you can find out a lot of this stuff. Also some composers are very detailed with their instructions on the score. Then with that in mind you want to try and put across what the piece means to you.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
True in the sense that music needs to be musical and engaging, which can happen when a performer really puts themselves into the performance, once they have considered the points I was mentioning in the question above. But, false if a musician becomes self-indulgent e.g they are having a really bad day and take it out on the music which then sounds aggressive, even if it's a lullaby!!

True or false: "Music is my first love"
Well my husband will probably read this so I can't say true!! But seriously, I wouldn't get as much pleasure from my music if I hadn't had the love of my family and friends over the years, so I would have to say false. I couldn't live without playing my guitar though.....(god that sounds a bit dramatic!!)

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
False. I have had amazing comments from young students of mine who have been to a concert and come out with really interesting responses to the music, same goes for adults who have never learnt an instrument. Sometimes knowing a lot about music and what it takes to put together a performance can be a distraction!

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
Wow I'd love to do that!! Well I would try and make it as diverse as possible by bringing together a program of  music from different countries, which the locals may not have had the chance to hear before e.g a flamenco group with dancers or a group of Indian classical musicians on traditional instruments. Also the odd old favourite would be great like a beautiful piano recital and of course a guitarist!!!

What's your favourite classical CD at the moment?
I have been listening to a CD of Scarlatti Sonatas by my old piano teacher Mark Swartzentruber  (he is not old- I just mean the lessons were a while ago!)I am learning some Scarlatti at the moment and his beautiful CD is a great inspiration.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
Well you now know I had piano lessons! I was about grade6 on that and still enjoy the odd tinkle on the ivories when I get a minute. I also tried to play the cello following my obsession with Jacqueline du Pre but I was pretty hopeless and it was depressing listening to myself scrape through "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" so I gave up!

Strictly Latin

As Appassionata:
Let go

Amanda Cook

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