Q&A with Associate Principal Bass, Annabella Zilber

Where are you from?
I’m from Christchurch.

How long have you been a musician in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra?
This will be my tenth year with the APO. 

What is your musical background? Have you always wanted to be a musician?
I began on piano around the age of 7 – my Mum had just started piano lessons herself. She had enjoyed playing as a child and wanted to start again. I heard her practicing and was inspired to try it. I didn’t turn out to be a very dedicated piano student though, as my teachers always told me that I needed to practice more!

It wasn’t until I started the bass that I really got hooked. I was attracted to the sheer size of the instrument, its beauty, and that unmistakable, deep timbre. Playing in orchestras and being a part of such a huge sound is what prompted me to pursue music as a career.

Can you play any another instrument, other than the bass?
Double bass is my only instrument these days.

What is your funniest story from performing as an orchestra musician?
The embarrassing memories tend to be a lot more vivid than the funny ones!

For example, I was performing at a concert a few years ago, with a guest soloist joining the cello section at the second half of the concert. The final movement of the symphony was very fast and I had a page turn that had to be done very quickly. In my haste to get up and turn the page as quickly as possible, I lost hold of my bow and it flew into the cello section – you can guess who it landed on!

I tried to collect my bow and continue playing as gracefully as possible, hoping that not too many audience members had spotted my gaffe. Luckily the cellist was very kind about it (and nobody was hurt).

What are you most looking forward to in the APO’s 2021 season?
I’m really excited about The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: The Greats on Thursday 22 July. We will be performing Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, which is one of my favourite works. This is a challenging piece of music for bass players, and the third movement is often required for orchestral auditions – so we are very familiar with it.

Beyond that, it’s such a joyful and exuberant symphony, and not one that I have performed with the APO before. Brahms’ sublime Violin Concerto is always a crowd favourite, and rightfully so. I think it’s the perfect pairing for Schubert.

What are your interests outside of music?
I have many interests outside of music but the newest one is cycling, which I took up last year after lockdown. I’m really enjoying getting further afield on my bike and exploring more of the Auckland region.

What makes you happiest?
I’m happiest when spending time with my husband, Ben, and our almost-two-year-old son Louis.

What might surprise people to know about you?
I sew most of my clothes myself.

Quickfire! What is your favourite-at-the-moment...?

Book: Whichever New Yorker magazine has landed in my letterbox most recently

Movie: David Byrne’s American Utopia

TV Show: Fran Lebowitz’s Pretend It’s a City

Food: Eden Noodles’ dumplings in spicy sauce

Song: Anything on Kurt Vile’s new EP, Speed, Sound, Lonely KV

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