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20 Questions with Graham Abbott

Before Graham helps us get to know Beethoven 4, we took the chance to get to know him.

Which piece of music got you hooked?

I have a distinct memory of hearing the fifth Brandenburg Concerto of Bach at some stage in my childhood, most likely on television or the radio as I came from a completely non-musical family. But my mother started buying me records when I was about 8, and the first of these - Grieg's first Peer Gynt suite - has special resonances for me as well.

Who has influenced you most?

Richard Gill, without a doubt. I've known Richard since I was 16 and he taught me music history when I was at the Conservatorium High School in Sydney. He arranged for me to have my first conducting experience in the real world (as opposed to at school) and he has been an inspiration to me ever since. We share a passion for music education but I can't come close to his eloquence in explaining its importance.

Who’s your hero?

Of people that I know, Richard Gill (see above). But of people in history it would have to be George Frideric Handel, whose life and music have been my obsession since childhood.

What’s your go-to comfort food?

What isn't?

What does your perfect holiday look like?

Venice is my place of obsession and I've visited it many times over the past 20 years. Much as I know the place so well, she always fascinates me, and I love to get lost in the tiny streets and dead ends. Venice in the winter is where I go to recharge, and I do little else except walk and visit galleries. I've never been in a gondola, by the way. I'm no "tourist"; I'm a "traveller"!

I haven’t yet, but I’d like to visit…

I'm very keen to explore Spain and Portugal. I have had very short visits to Barcelona (two days) and Lisbon (three), but beyond that the Iberian peninsula is unknown to me. It's high on my list.

Where’s home for you?

Wherever my library is at the time, really. I was born and raised in Sydney but haven't lived there since the mid-80s and have no desire to return. Since then I've alternated between Melbourne and Adelaide and currently Adelaide is where my library - and my dog - are.

I wish I spent more time…

Travelling. I keep telling myself I need to see more of New Zealand but so far I've only ever been to Auckland and Wellington. The rest of the country beckons!

What does happiness look like to you?

My ten month old Chihuahua/Jack Russell cross, Lulu. She's the joy of my life.

What’s your favourite app?

Facebook. I was away for a few years but I regret to say I'm re-addicted. Beyond that I've recently become passionate about crosswords.

What gives you hope?

Not a lot, to be absolutely honest. I despair of the state of the world and the elevation of ignorance over truth. Music isn't really a refuge for me, but it's the higher power which gives me some respite.

What are you reading?

I always have several books on the go, virtually always non fiction. Currently they range in subject from the castrati in Baroque opera, Acceptance Commitment Therapy and - no surprise here - Venice. 

What’s your signature dish?

A very simple chicken and vegetable pasta in a tomato based sauce.

Any pets?

Lulu, as mentioned above. She's my owner/trainer and she features on my facebook page more than anything else.

Who (or what) is the love of your life?

There is a special man in my life but it's early days yet.

What is your guilty pleasure?

See above!

What was your first job?

During the summer holidays between school and university I worked in the toy department of a department store. This was enough to turn me off retail for life. My first real job was as a high school Music and English teacher.

What do you spend too much money on?

Travel. But then, it's probably never "too much".

What’s a piece of music you’re desperate to perform that you haven’t yet?

The list is enormous! But there would have to be three: Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah, and Bach's Mass in B Minor. 

Why is music important?

Music is beautiful, even when it challenges or disturbs us, but we can always use more beauty and more mental challenges in our life. But beyond that, music is just good - in and of itself - and there are not many things you can say that about. There is no limit to the good music can do for our brains, and especially for the brains of children. As Shakespeare said, "If music be the food of love, give me excess of it".




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