APO Staff Highlights: Amber Read

After ten years working with the APO, our Orchestra Manager Amber Read talks about some of her orchestra-and-classical-music highlights from both the APO and her personal life.

My favourite discovery

Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra
I agreed to do the pre-concert talk for this without knowing anything about it, other than thinking that it sounded like an interesting piece by a composer that I had not encountered before. I had a lot of research to do beforehand! It was a wonderful journey of discovery and I loved everything that I found out about it.

Particularly, one thing that I thought was interesting was the third movement passacaglia – in Pachelbel’s Canon, one of the most famous examples of passacaglia, the repeating bass theme is obvious from the start, but Lutosławski is more subtle, introducing the theme at the very edge of audibility, and developing it throughout the movement. I always tell people to listen to the strings and brass a little later in the movement (at 16.41 in this recording) to hear the theme in its full glory!

My favourite contemporary piece

Brett Dean’s violin concerto: The Lost Art of Letter Writing
I heard this performed by APO when I was in university and it is still one of my favourite pieces of contemporary music. Many of my favourites tend to be older than my great-grandparents, and by contrast, I love that this one is younger than I am! Brett Dean has an utterly brilliant use of orchestral texture and colour. This was definitely a success story of my penchant for going to concerts of music where I don’t know what to expect. It’s not always successful, but on this occasion it absolutely was.

My favourite performance

Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony
I used to play Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony in my youth orchestra (the Auckland Youth Orchestra, with APO mentors). I saw the APO perform it some years later and it was such an emotional experience for me to hear this music that had been under my own fingers for so long, performed so well by a professional orchestra.

My favourite musical memory

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
One of my first concert experiences was when my grandparents took me to the Starlight Symphony (a free annual orchestra event that used to be held in Auckland). A big drawcard for that evening was that Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture that concluded the night with real cannons! We all had glow sticks and it was marvellously exciting to a child, especially one who had just started music lessons (I was about eight).

A technical masterpiece

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade
This was one of the first pieces of music that I used for learning how to read orchestral scores when I was studying music history and analysis. The first time I heard it live was with the APO and Dimitri Atanassov as Concertmaster. It was one of the few times that a performance has actually brought ‘tears to my ears’ as everything that I knew about the piece academically just suddenly ‘clicked’. I rarely listen to it now because the performance was so amazing - listening to a recording doesn’t have the same effect at all.

A talented soloist

Bruch’s Violin Concerto
At one point, the APO performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto with Henning Kraggerud, who stepped in at the last minute after the original soloist had to cancel. His tone was so fabulous – I had never heard the concerto performed like that before, and it has stuck out in my mind since then as an example of a very talented soloist.

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