With the upcoming ANAM Artists tour from 9-16 July, let’s learn a little more about violinst Harry Bennetts (currently undertaking scholarship studies at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy) and pianist Louisa Breen (one of the country’s leading associate artists and freelance pianist) who are our inaugural ANAM Artists.
IMAGES: Yassar Hameed, Candela Photography
What drew you to your instrument?
Harry: In my family we were all encouraged to pursue music and the arts, with my mum being a clarinet player. My older sister had already started the violin and I guess I was too lazy/competitive to choose something different.
Louisa: My mother is a music teacher and it was always part of our lives growing up. I can’t remember any clear decision-making process but by the age of 10 I had decided I was going to be a musician. I worked equally at both violin and piano through school and university, and it was the somewhat accidental but serendipitous winning of a large travelling scholarship for piano (the City of Sydney/John Allison scholarship) which finally made the choice for me to go overseas to study the piano.
What do you remember most about your time at ANAM?
H: For me, the strongest memory I have of ANAM is a solid support network of both students and staff. As well as this, ANAM’s strong tradition of discovering ‘the new’ in music, whether it be a premiere or Baroque. This is something I’m incredibly grateful for being a part of.
L: I was involved in the very first of the ANAM short-courses which was a contemporary music course held in Hobart. At this point ANAM as an organisation was starting to look at what it could do, and those courses were quite different from the Professional Performance Program we know now. I spent a very cold week in Hobart working with other wonderful young musicians on the Ligeti Chamber Concerto, as well as other solo and chamber works. Many of the people I met on that course have kept on popping up in my musical life in the intervening 21 years.
What, so far, has been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt whilst studying overseas? H: I really couldn’t say, but something I realised quite recently was that regardless of how big the pond is and how many amazing musicians there are out there, we all have our strengths. It’s something so basic, but I had to move overseas to discover it for myself.
L: That the world is a big place, but Australia, and Australian musicians, hold their own! There was a feeling that I’d get lost among the hundreds of other musicians and students in London, but I was pleased to find that a good musician was treated as such, regardless of where they came from or what their background was.
What has been the most memorable moment of your professional career so far?
H: In the last year, it would have to be performing with the John Adams Chamber Symphony with Adams conducting the Karajan Academy. It was terrifyingly exposing but so exciting!
L: A few stand out to me – definitely my Solo Wigmore Hall debut recital. It’s such an incredible venue, where every note can be heard, yet the resonance and sound is exactly what you’d want. Also being involved in a performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at The Royal Concertgebouw with Sir Andrew Davis and the soprano Erin Wall. A magical venue and quite an astonishing performance.
What has been your scariest performance moment?
H: So many… In general I think my nerves tend to peak at the start of the general rehearsal before the concert. By the time the actual performance comes, I think to myself, I do this to enjoy myself – so enjoy it.
L: When my (lovely but confused) page-turner turned back to the start of a movement before I’d played the Trio section of a Schubert Piano Trio, in the finals of the ANAM Chamber Competition one year. I managed to remember quite a lot of it while we tried to get the page back to where it was meant to be, but my heart-rate took a while to recover.
Why did you choose to work at ANAM?
L: Working as a coach/accompanist/duo musician is what I enjoy most. I was lucky to bump into the current Resident Piano Faculty & Head of Chamber Music Tim Young the week after I moved back to Melbourne, and he was in need of a pianist for a student recital on quite short notice. The rest followed, and here I am, some 12 years later!
How did ANAM help get you where you are today?
H: ANAM is still helping me to improve as a musician. Being back playing a recital tour with Louisa is such a great learning experience. The commitment to the students’ development even after leaving ANAM is fantastic.
What in your experience is the hardest part of the transition to a professional music career?
L: The preparation time for every performance decreases considerably! Having made that adjustment and come to terms with the reduced practice time, I then decided to have children, which brought even more challenges of time management! One definitely learns about efficiency with many concert programs on the go at once.
If not the violin, what instrument would you have played instead?
H: Cello or horn. I love the roundness of the sound and the expressive quality.
If not the piano, what instrument would you have played instead?
What do you enjoy doing outside of music?
H: Love to have a wine and cook, and getting ludicrous amounts of sleep.
L: Good food, good books, going to the cinema, cycling and spending time with my family.
Do you have any future music projects in the pipeline?
H: My next project in Australia is later this year in Canberra. A recital of Janáček, Pärt and Franck and then Tchaikovsky concerto with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra the following week.
L: Some exciting piano duo concerts for 2018 including new commissions from Ross Edwards and Joe Chindamo, some wonderful Brahms Piano Quartet concerts later this year with the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, and some exciting string/piano duo programs in the pipeline for next year and 2019.
What sage advice would you give to our ANAM musicians today?
H: I think just to throw yourself completely into everything you endeavour while you have so much freedom. Even if something may turn out to be a bad experience, at least you’ve experienced it to the full.
L: Make the most of the practice time you have now. You will never again have quite the freedom to work on your own playing, and to learn major repertoire as you do now.
Don’t miss your opportunity to see Harry and Louisa in their ANAM Artists Bennetts and Breen tour, visiting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, with tickets available through venue websites.