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15 Questions to Anna Starr

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I’m very well and relaxed after a month of work in Holland which means I got to enjoy being at home for a while (and for once the time at home coincided with some decent weather!)

What’s on your schedule right now?
The whole summer is filled with nice bits and pieces – York Early Music Competition next week with my quintet, the Halcyon Ensemble, a tour with Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, a week in Finland, a concert in the Brugge Early Music Festival with the quintet, a project in the Utrecht Early Music Festival…

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?

I think I would be doing something that has nothing to do with music – I am sure I could not stand to be working in the arts industry but not actually be the performer.  A primary school teacher in a little village perhaps?

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
I guess my two main baroque oboe teachers (Marcel Ponseele and Alfredo Bernardini) have had a huge influence on me, both as people and as musicians.  They have very different ways of thinking and playing, and I feel so privileged to have studied with both of them and gained from two such diverse outlooks. It was such a nice surprise to discover that two of the musicians that I respected the most were also such wonderfully humble people.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?

I think they are one and the same thing! You have the freedom to work to your own schedule – but you have to motivate yourself. You get paid to travel to all sorts of wonderful destinations – but you have to consistently perform well, even when you are tired, the plane was late, your suitcase is missing, your reeds don’t work in the different climate, the hotel is next to a busy road and there’s no time to get something to eat before the concert. You get to work with lots of different groups and meet new people – but that can be tiring too. The flexibility of choosing your own schedule – and the insecurity of an irregular income.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

I’ve not been in the profession that long, so I expect it to be hard. But I speak to my older colleagues and they tell stories of how much work there used to be and how well paid it was. I suppose we’ve come a long way from the eighteenth century when every court, nobleman and chapel had it’s musicians, and we are also a long way from the boom years of the recording industry. It does only seem to get harder, but is that not the way throughout most industries in the world? I think the crisis is far more global than just the classical music scene, but I wish that classical music could somehow be more accessible and more financially viable.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?
There are as many ways of interpreting a work as there are performers, and there is a wealth of unknown or little played music out there. Recording for the sake of recording is a pity, but if someone really has something to say, why not do another recording of Beethoven’s 5th?

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
What makes a live performance so special is that it is unique. It will never be the same twice. I think this is a good reason to take risks on stage and not to underestimate the importance of the visual aspect of performance. A good performance should enlighten, touch hearts, lift spirits, provoke thought – as well as being simply entertaining and fun.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
It is how I see a piece. How it speaks to me, what I think it is saying, and what I want to say through it. This can involve historically informed research as well as simply the imagination and feelings.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
If he doesn’t do this, then I don’t know why he is making music. It should not be a duty, but rather a desire or a need even.

True or false: “Music is my first love”
True. Sometimes it is very irritating though (like most loves!)

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
Absolutely not. People can enjoy classical music on many levels. An ‘educated’ person may have a deeper understanding of the music, but not necessarily a deeper enjoyment or a deeper connection with it. Maybe the totally uneducated listener has a more ‘spiritual’ experience from it as he is not at all distracted by the intellectual aspects. But I don’t think one thing is better than the other.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?

This is not a good question for me because I am shamefully narrow-minded in my tastes and would find it very hard have the view of the general public in mind! I would be a disaster in this job and be fired before the end of the first season.

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?

Zefiro’s CD of Mozart opera overtures and arias arranged by Alfredo Bernardini for 13 winds (instead of the usual octet). It is wonderful music, geniously arranged, stunningly played with a good measure of fun involved.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

Recorder, violin and viola preceeded my efforts on oboe, and modern oboe preceeded my move into historical oboes. I was not exactly a natural string player, but oboe drives me pretty crazy too.  Perhaps I should have stuck with my first love, the recorder (but then, what would I actually DO ??!)

(with Halcyon Ensemble)
Mastery and Admiration (Passacaille) 2005

Anna Starr

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