APO’s Ben Gemmell talked to APO Principal Harp Ingrid Bauer about her inspirations, her love of Gilmore Girls and her ‘Mahler bucket list’.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Wellington and I grew up there too. My father is an academic and for his research we spent six months in Leeds, UK when I was four (that's where I first heard a harp!), and another six months in Amsterdam when I was ten. Aside from that, I lived in Wellington until I moved to Australia to do my university honours year.
How long have you been with the APO?
A little over a year and a half now. I started in mid-June 2018.
Are there any instruments, other than the harp, that you can play?
I learned the piano as a child before I started harp. Although I hated piano, I still remember the basics. Then, in my fourth form year (that is Year 10 if you are younger than I am!), there was a timetable clash on my first choice of optional subjects, so I decided to take "intermediate band" instead.
I needed a band instrument, so I dusted off my mother's old flute out of the cupboard and eventually managed to force it to make a sound! I still have that flute, but I lost the embouchure muscles years ago (the technique of using your lips and facial muscles for playing brass and woodwind instruments).
More recently, I have taken up the violin. Although I struggle to make time to practise consistently – I am making slow progress. It is great for my aural skills. One day I hope to be able to play some of the orchestral repertoire, which do not have parts for the harp!
What are some of your favourite works in the harp repertoire?
This changes from day-to-day, but Ravel's Introduction and Allegro is up there. Also, the Britten Suite and Rodrigo's Concierto Serenata. To pick some lesser-known but equally excellent works, the Suite for Violin and Harp by Thomas Rajna and Pour le tombeau d'Orphée by Marius Flothuis.
What are your interests outside of the orchestra?
I like to make things. I knit a lot, crochet, sew a little, and do a little bit of calligraphy. I am generally happiest when my hands are busy creating something.
What inspires you?
Other musicians are the greatest source of inspiration there is!
We are lucky in the APO to have some great conductors and soloists come through (not to mention some excellent core players). I get new ideas about ways to approach my playing whenever I work with someone exceptional.
My teacher and mentor Alice Giles continues to be an inspiration every time I see her and hear her play. She constantly reminds me of how much variety of sound and expression is possible on the harp! And of course, there are so many wonderful recordings available with just a few clicks – there's always inspiration to be found.
Quickfire! What is your favourite…
Book – This is almost as hard as my favourite harp repertoire, but a few would be Mansfield Park by Jane Austen; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; Elizabeth Berg's Katie trilogy.
Movie – Corpse Bride, or Shakespeare in Love
TV show – Gilmore Girls
Food – Omega plums (or when they are not in season – pancakes with lemon and sugar).
Do you have any advice for young aspiring musicians?
Find a teacher who understands you, as well as how to play your instrument. Take every opportunity to play to someone new. Ask the questions that seem dumb – sometimes those are the most helpful answers!
Go in with your eyes open: this is a difficult and competitive career path, and you're going to hear a lot of "no" and a lot of "not good enough". Only take it beyond a hobby it if you love it enough to make that worth it.
What are you looking forward to in the APO’s 2020 season?
Melanie Lançon and I are playing Mozart's Flute and Harp Concerto at the New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Cityscapes on Thursday 5 March, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to step into a solo role! Melanie's playing is always beautiful, so I am looking forward to working with her.
There is a big harpy programme in New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Fire & Fantasy on Thursday 14 May with two Ravel works and Stravinsky's The Firebird Suite. The Finale from the Firebird Suite was my bridal processional, so that has a special place in my heart.
I have it on my bucket list to play all of Mahler's symphonies and I have not done his Sixth Symphony yet, so I am excited about that.
Last, but not least, I am really looking forward to Peter Grimes with Tobias Ringborg and some top-notch singers. Britten is amazing and I really enjoyed our Bohème season with Tobias in 2018.