Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Celebrity Soft Spot Alexandre da Costa

Alexandre da Costa's debut at age nine on violin and piano brought him recognition as a musical prodigy. By eighteen he had a Masters degree in violin from Quebec Conservatory and he went on to study in Madrid with legendary violin teacher Zakhar Bron. His career as an international soloist includes recording 20 albums and in 2014 he was appointed associate professor of classical performance at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. This month Alexandre will perform with several ensembles from the academy and he took a break from rehearsals to update us on the string revival occurring at WAAPA.


What music gets your heart racing?

Good concerts! I love performing, it’s what excites me the most.

What calms you down?

Being with my son. He is a very important part of my life and gives me strength to fight the important battles.

What do you sing along to?

Mostly eighties pop music!

This weekend (September 2/3rd)you are directing Vienna to Berlin by Night with repertoire including the tone poems of Richard Strauss, Viennese waltzes by Johann Strauss and works by Arnold Schoenberg and Ludwig van Beethoven. How are you preparing students from the Indian Ocean Ensemble to explore these works?

It’s a very healthy preparation process, involving a pretty good amount of rehearsal time, and lots of fun! Indeed, when the IOE meets, it’s always done in a very professional way, but also in a relaxed environment that allows the elite students to relate to the music and their colleagues.

When you arrived in Perth your goal together with your WAAPA colleagues was to “build one of the strongest string programs in the Asia-Pacific region”. What was your strategy and how is your progress going?

It’s going great. We are definitely right on path for our goals and desires. The level of the students is rapidly increasing, and the philosophy of practice and training is changing fast. We are also working on very important international partnerships, such as the one that allowed us to send six of the best WAAPA students on tour with a young professional orchestra program in Canada.

Listen to Alexandre perform the first movement of St Saens' Violin Concerto no 3 with the Oviedo Symphon Orchestra here.  


A WAAPA degree is one small part of the shaping of a performer, alongside post-grad studies, mentoring, competitions etc. What is the most important aspect you want your WAAPA students to take from their degree?

I would like for them to feel confident enough to apply and be successful at getting a good job in the music field. Some will go work for professional orchestras, and the levels required are very high for those jobs, so I want to prepare them as best I can so that they win a position where they want.

Mark Applebaum says music should be above all else be interesting. What do you think is the most important role of music?

Let’s put it this way: without music, the human race would never be the same or be able to achieve such growth. Music calms the spirits, soothes them, creates passion, and gives us a different perspective on life in general.

You play a 1727 Di Barbaro Stradivarius violin. Does it have a distinct musical character?

It is an incredible opportunity to play on this instrument which is on loan from the Canimex company. It is an wonderful instrument, one of the most beautiful on the planet.

Watch Alexandre perform on his Stradivarius with the Vienna Symphony here.


You have a soft spot for violin concertos by Portugese composers, having recorded the premieres of violin concertos by Luis de Freitas Branco and Armando José Fernandes. What is the appeal of this repertoire?

My name, Da Costa, is of Portuguese decent. I wanted to make sure that I would explore all my roots through music.

You also have a love affair with the piano which you have played from early age alongside the violin, culminating in a bachelor degree in piano interpretation at University of Montreal. What made you ultimately choose violin as your focus?

I think it is very difficult to pursue a solo career in two different instruments. I loved the piano but in order to achieve my goal of being an international soloist, I had to make a difficult choice and go for the violin. But I still play a bit of piano for myself!

What is your favourite Australian composer?

At the moment I am working on a commission with Paul Sarcich, so he would be my favorite at the moment!

Martine Cardinal, violinst and
director of Laurentians Festival
You are director of the Laurentians Festival in Canada where you work alongside your wife and festival CEO Martine Cardinal. Am I correct in thinking you have welcomed a new addition to your family?

Yes. Martine and I are the proud parents of Mattenzo, my dear son. It has given us a new insight in life in general, and made us realize how precious life is.

What is your favourite place in Perth?

The restaurant Bread in Common in Fremantle and the beach at Cottesloe!

Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about the music and the family?

There is always time for other things, but I must say that with all the travels, the concerts, the family responsibilities and the projects, there are very few hours left in the day to think about something else! But we try to enjoy our surroundings and explore new cultures.


Thank you Alexandre for making the time for Celebrity Soft Spot. Alexandre will be leading the Indian Ocean Ensemble on the 2nd/3rd September in Vienna to Berlin, a program of late romantic Viennese music. On September 8th he will lead the leading string students in Scintillating Strings. For more information on Alexandre visit his website http://www.alexandredacosta.com/

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