Anna Hansen has been with the ASO for 26 years. She knew she’d make a career in music when she brought home a violin after her very first lesson. Anna clearly remembers telling her parents, “I am going to be a violinist when I grow up”, and slept with her violin under her bed that night. Anna now chuckles, “I was only a little bit off – you still hold the viola the same way, and most principles apply!”
Anna is also a busy mum of three girls who all play competitive sport. Before the rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19 came into effect, Anna was going from one training session to the next. Now, she says she has much too much free time for her liking!
Hometown: I grew up in Jamberoo, NSW (a small village about 1.5 hours south of Sydney).
Education: Bachelor of Music, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
If I weren’t a professional musician I’d be:
A web designer, or something geeky like that. I used to be right up with all the latest technology. I have fallen a long way behind now but enjoy managing the social media and web pages of my daughter’s swim club.
How did you choose the viola?
I heard my slightly older friend playing violin at her local Suzuki concert and pestered my parents for two years until they gave in and let me learn. I started learning viola to help my strength for violin and very quickly fell in love with it and transitioned over.
Is there anything special about your actual instrument/does it have a name/any quirks?
I bought my viola from composer and violist, Brett Dean, who bought it from Wolfram Christ of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I feel very fortunate to have such a beautiful instrument, and just hope some of their incredible skills have ingrained themselves into the wood of my instrument!
Describe the best thing about being a musician:
Being able to have a job that is doing something we love.
Finish this sentence: Music to me is…a building block. Without music, the world would be a very different place. Imagine a ballet with no music, or a film with no soundtrack, for example.
Who has influenced you most as a musician?
No one person, but my colleagues as a whole have had a huge impact on shaping me as a musician, and providing support and guidance. Also, my piano teacher, Nan Price. She opened my mind up to so much, and often accompanied me when playing violin/viola, and even though she didn’t teach those instruments, she managed to teach me so much about making music in general.
If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why?
Cello, without doubt! I love the sound, and some of my favourite pieces of music are cello concertos!
Which solo or moment in the viola orchestral repertoire is your favourite?
Bartok Viola Concerto.
My most memorable performance with the ASO:
Our recent performance in Shanghai. It was an amazing concert hall, and every single musician rose to the occasion and gave their absolute best.
My first orchestral concert memory and what made it memorable:
Watching the Wollongong Symphony Orchestra play. I was mesmerised!
COVID-19 put a hold over ASO concerts. What did you miss the most about not being able to perform?
The orchestra is really like one big family. I felt very cut off without contact with my colleagues making music together. It is one thing to prepare and practise at home but performing makes all that work make sense. It is very hard to find motivation without that opportunity.
Despite not being able to perform in concerts you still had to remain playing fit for when concerts resumed. How many hours a day are you practising, and what repertoire are you selecting? Where in the house do you practise?
I am trying to practise for a few hours a day to keep in shape. Some days will be more, some less. We have a biggish family, and we are all trying to work at home, so this takes some adjusting. I like to practise in the study, which has great lighting, but this has been taken over by my husband as his work from home office, so I am practising in the front living room, which is presenting a few challenges! I have been playing some studies, scales, and finding a few duets to play with myself. Thank goodness for modern technology! We are planning a viola trio with some colleagues. We will see if it works. Watch this space!
What is the thing you most crave whilst living in isolation?
Contact with others. Sitting down with friends and having a coffee. Chatting to the parents of the kids my children play sport with while they train. Not being able to provide the opportunities for my children to play their sports, when they have trained so hard for events that now can’t occur, is just devastating.
When you’re not performing or practising, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In non-COVID-19 times, I don’t have much free time. I have 3 kids, who all play competitive sport. One swims 7-8 times a week (hello early mornings!), one is a gymnast who trains 15 hours a week, and one does a bit of everything! Right now, I have much too much free time for my liking. I am filling it by long dog walks, and cooking decent family meals, and finally catching up on TV shows that we haven’t watched for months.
When you’re not listening to classical music, what do you listen to?
I listen to podcasts. I like having a break from music every now and then!
Name three pieces of music you love, and why.
- Elgar Cello Concerto. I will never forget the first time I heard Jacqueline du Pre playing it, unfortunately, not live!
- Shostakovich 5th Symphony, so amazing to play, and to listen to.
- Mahler 5th Symphony, the first really “difficult” piece I played in youth orchestra, I didn’t like it at all at first, but the more I play it, the more I love it!
Do you come from a musical family?
My grandfather played organ for his church choir, and had the most amazing knowledge of music. Even when he was suffering Alzheimer’s near the end of his life, you could put a CD on, start halfway through a movement of any of his large collection, and he could tell you what piece and movement it was! My mother played piano, and my brother played cello; he even did a music degree before ending up in banking!
Name three things people may not know about you
- Our family has an eleven month old border collie cross, and three cats
- I am lucky to have three gorgeous daughters and a gorgeous step-daughter. Life is never boring!
- Our family used to foster cats/kittens but had to stop before we ended up adopting them all ourselves and becoming a completely crazy cat family!
What’s your idea of a perfect day in Adelaide?
Having a sleep in, followed by a nice relaxing breakfast with family, taking the dog for a long walk along the beach, reading a book/watching a movie, then a family roast dinner accompanied by a nice red wine!
If you could ask one composer one question what would it be?
I would ask Mozart what he thought of today’s music!
What piece of music never fails to move you?
Barber Adagio for Strings
What’s your favourite type of food?
If I were to pick takeaway or to go out to a restaurant, I’d probably pick Thai food, though I enjoy just about everything.
What books are on your nightstand?
The Librarian of Auschwitz – recommended to me by my twelve year old daughter.
Do you speak any other languages?
I learned German at school, and Italian at university, but the answer is no! Very little has remained in my long term memory!
Do you have any hobbies?
Walking the dog, travel, camping (glamping?!)