ANAM Quartetthaus. Pic: Pia Johnson

Music

A Q&A with ANAM Artistic Director Nick Deutsch

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2020 is your final year at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). What attracted you to the position in the first place?

In 2015 I had the extraordinary good fortune to be offered what seemed to me then (and still does now) to be one of the best jobs in music training, anywhere. ANAM is a truly remarkable place; a foundation, as well as a keystone of Australia’s cultural life, with a devoted commitment to excellence and artistic integrity. When I joined, I thought it was one of Australia’s best kept secrets; I now know it to be a school of international reputation and standing, staffed by a truly outstanding faculty.

What have been some of the biggest surprises or challenges for you working with ANAM?

We thrive on challenges here at ANAM – they are opportunities to constantly reinvent ourselves. The nature of ANAM means that the training of each musician is tailored and unique. It’s been an exciting challenge to create a program each year that is nimble and flexible, catering to the needs of the current cohort. As an organisation we have faced many challenges over the years but I am always so amazed at the wonderful people that make this institution what it is and who come together to offer support.

What are you most excited about in the 2020 program? 

There are many but If I had to select just one it would be Korngold’s Die tote Stadt (The Dead City). It is one of my most beloved operas and a stunning opera of the last century. We will be performing a concert version with Victorian Opera and, as it premiered in Hamburg, it seemed apt that we could invite one of Australia’s most accomplished conductors to lead the project. Conductor Simone Young was Chief Conductor of the Opera in Hamburg for 10 years and is a regular guest at ANAM. She will work with our musicians alongside a cast of singers including Marlis Petersen who is currently artist-in-residence at the Berliner Philharmoniker, and Michael Schade. 

Tell us about a couple of the international artists this year.

In 2020 we are pleased to welcome guest artists such as German violist Tabea Zimmermann who visits ANAM for the first time, percussion legend and champion of new music Steven Schick, British violinist Anthony Marwood and Norwegian bassoonist Ole Kristian Dahl. At ANAM, our point of difference is that all of our visiting artists not only instruct our musicians but share the stage with them as colleagues. It’s an amazing opportunity and the results are extraordinary.

Given every orchestra/ensemble in the world is celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday, how did you approach ANAM’s own celebrations?

The 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020 is a wonderful opportunity to program his music, but of course you hardly need an excuse to do so! Beethoven was a true master of his art who journeyed further – expressively, conceptually, and psychologically – than any other composer before or since.

In 2020 we will be presenting the complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets in the purpose-built ANAM Quartetthaus and we will be performing with musicians from our partner institutions from across the world. ANAM will be joined by musicians from Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin), Orchestra Academy of Bayerisches Staatsorchester (Munich), Colburn School (Los Angeles), Sibelius Academy (Helsinki) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London).

The performance space – ANAM Quartetthaus created especially for ANAM by Bluebottle – has musicians playing in the round, and only 52 seats in the venue, so no audience member is ever more than two metres from the performers, making for an extraordinary, intimate and unforgettable concert experience. It hasn’t been used in Melbourne since the 2014 Melbourne Festival and is a must for music lovers.

It is exciting to see our musicians making their mark in the world and I look forward to working with many of them as colleagues in the years to come.

We will be also be performing Symphonies 1,2,3 in partnership with the ACO as well as Symphony no. 6 with Tabea Zimmerman leading from the viola, and Symphony no. 5 with Richard Tognetti and all the string players involved in the quartet cycle.

Head of Keyboard, Tim Young will lead the ANAM pianists in a performance of the Diabelli Variations, and we are starting a new series “Brunch with Beethoven“ in which our musicians curate programs around works of Beethoven and works inspired by Beethoven.

For you, what have been the highlights of your tenure at ANAM?

I am immensely proud of what has been achieved at ANAM over the course of my tenure. Our partnerships with organisations such as Berliner Philharmoniker, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Bavarian State Opera are testament to this standing as well as regular side by side partnerships with leading Australian and New Zealand orchestras and ensembles such as the Australian World Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

As Artistic Director, my overriding responsibility is to the musicians themselves – exposing them to a wider variety of musical styles and approaches to music-making, to stretch their imagination and ignite their curiosity. It is exciting to see our musicians making their mark in the world and I look forward to working with many of them as colleagues in the years to come.

How have you seen ANAM evolve since 2015? 

ANAM has always been a place for the most exceptional young musicians to hone their skills and fulfil their potential yet over the past four years I have seen a marked improvement in the quality of our cohort and the musicians who leave ANAM to enter the profession. Our alumni regularly receive major national and international awards, are performing as soloists and working in orchestras and chamber ensembles around the world. ANAM has really established its standing on an international stage, and the collaborations and esteemed visiting artists we attract is another testament to that.

What are your hopes for ANAM’s future? 

ANAM has been on a most impressive trajectory over the past years and I am confident that that trajectory will continue. All staff and faculty are here for the right reasons – to make sure that Australia’s most talented musicians are on a similar level to their counterparts anywhere in the world. Although I am stepping down as Artistic Director, I will always remain an ANAM ambassador around the world.

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