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Five Questions with Amalia Hall

Te Marama puoro o Aotearoa is here (New Zealand Music month). Nina Lesperance from SOUNZ recently caught up with Amalia to hear what New Zealand Music month means to her.

What does NZ Music month mean to you?

NZ Music Month is such a fantastic celebration of the amazing creative talent we have here in NZ. I think it's so important to keep showcasing NZ music so that it becomes even more mainstream, and the artists receive the hard-earned recognition they deserve.

How do you juggle your roles with Orchestra Wellington and the NZTrio?

The concerts are sandwiched throughout the year so that I spend approximately a third of my time in Wellington, then the rest of the time either in Auckland or touring around the country. Until travelling became more restricted last year, I usually spent about 3 months a year overseas as well, for solo and chamber music engagements.

What is your approach to programming NZ music and do you have a favourite orchestral, solo or chamber work?

It's really exciting to play NZ music and to share something so fresh and unique to our country, and I really relish the fact that in NZTrio we are able to programme such a broad spectrum of works by NZ composers. Since joining the trio I've definitely been exposed to a lot more of this, so now I really want to learn more solo and duo NZ works to include in future recitals as well.

My 2 favourite NZ pieces would have to be 'Stark' Concerto by Claire Cowan and 'Sama' Violin Concerto by Michael Norris. It was a real honour to premiere both of them with Marc Taddei and Orchestra Wellington, and I'd love to fly the NZ flag further afield by performing these incredible works overseas.

You are very active on social media, have you found this is a useful way to connect with your audience?

These days it definitely seems to be the best way to reach out to people with information about upcoming concerts, to make and keep connections, to share tidbits of music, and to stay up to date with what is happening in the music industry both here in NZ and abroad.

You lead a busy life as Concertmaster of Orchestra Wellington and Violinist of NZTrio. Which do you find more rewarding – orchestral or chamber music?

To be honest I thrive on having the variety - I feel that I learn so much from each position and they both provide a really fulfilling outreach of music to different communities in NZ. It has always been important to me to have balance like this, rather than taking a one-track path in violin playing.

Last year, SOUNZ commissioned you and pianist Stephen De Pledge to perform and film Gao Ping’s ‘Bitter Cold Night’ from your homes during lockdown. ‘Bitter Cold Night’ was subsequently programmed as part of your 12-centre Chamber Music NZ national tour. What does this work mean to you?

Bitter Cold Night is a very beautiful, strong and moving work and a vivid reminder of how lightly we've been affected by COVID-19 in comparison to many other places in the world. When Stephen and I put the video together remotely, it was an altogether new experience to have such a disconnect in our music-making, by playing in our respective houses but trying to make a unified musical interpretation. Once we were able to perform it on stage together, the piece had a new life, as we could allow the music to breathe and come off the page even more. Gao Ping truly captured the essence of introspection, hesitation, and the dichotomy between being both alone and united.

As a violinist, you’ve performed on many of the world’s greatest stages. Can you tell us about one of your most memorable concert experiences?

One of the most rewarding and memorable concert experiences I've ever had was performing all 5 of the Mozart violin concertos in one concert, during a visit to Uzbekistan. I absolutely adore playing Mozart, and it was a dream come true to share the journey through these concerti in one sitting, with a very engaged audience - it was quite a marathon and it definitely seemed like a once in a lifetime experience! Similarly, the Mozart project I directed with Orchestra Wellington in June last year brought a new level of appreciation for live performance, after the first lockdown had just finished. The energy from having an audience present is totally irreplaceable.