Meet Tania Frazer, Southern Cross Soloists

Our concert on 17 October 2014 will feature the Southern Cross Soloists.

Seven of Australia’s most accomplished musicians make up the Southern Cross Soloists.  The ensemble is based in Brisbane.  Since its formation in 1995, it has  developed into one of Australia's most successful and widely respected chamber ensembles and has established a sound international reputation. The ensemble’s international touring has taken it through the Asia-Pacific region and into North America.

It has been the ensemble in residence at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre for five years. The ensemble undertakes a busy schedule of national performances, while continuing to develop Australian chamber music talent through its Winter Music School regional education program.

SXS Tania Sydney Mozart Society spoke recently with Tania Frazer (oboe) who is the Creative Director of this this exciting group about her career, her involvement with the Southern Cross Soloists and some of the music the ensemble will perform for the Society.

SMS You are the creative director of the Southern Cross Soloists.  How did the group come to be formed and how did you become involved?

Tania Frazer The group formed in 1995 and started as a group of professional musicians who wanted to play chamber music together. I joined in 2001 when I came back to live in Australia. I had previously played in the wind quintet with Paul Dean and his wife, so when I came back they invited me to join the ensemble. When Paul stepped down as Artistic Director, I was appointed to the position.

SMS  How did your love affair with the oboe begin?

TF I was 13 years old and a clarinet player in the Queensland Youth Orchestra. We played Bizet's Carmen and I adored the oboe solo and the sound of the oboe- much more than the clarinet part!  And so I found one in the cupboard at school and asked to learn it!

SMS Do you make your own reeds?

TF Yes- and it is very time consuming and character building..... To play oboe you have to be a carpenter first and a musician second!

SMS  After your graduation you worked with some of the world’s greatest musicians.  Can you tell us about some of your memorable encounters.

TF I was lucky enough to work with Rostropovich on numerous occasions. He was an absolute larger than life character, extremely funny and really inspiring. So many of the things that he said about being a musician have stayed with me to this day. Also working with singers Jessie Norman and Barbara Hendricks was amazing. Their sound production was extraordinary to hear up close. But I would say one of the most memorable experiences was touring Europe as a soloist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Dawn Upshaw in 2006.

SMS  From early in your career you performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Metha and other celebrated conductors.  What did you learn from these experiences?

TF  From Zubin I learned to always look up at the conductor. He was adamant that all the musicians had to make constant eye contact with him so he could shape the phrasing. He hated it if people had their heads in the music. His conducting was so clear that you could really feel you were making music together, with him guiding every nuance. Lorin Maazel was the same....a consummate artist. It was a privilege to work with both of them.

SMS How do you find working in smaller groups differs from orchestral work?

TF Playing chamber music is a much more all-encompassing experience. One has to be aware of everything that is going on and it is essential to work together as a team. There is a lot more freedom than in orchestra, but at the same time there has to be a lot more give and take. We aim to play as one instrument, even though there are many of us on the stage. It takes a lot more preparation to play chamber music (since there is no conductor to keep it together) but the results are much more rewarding.

SMS How do the players adapt to the Mozart Piano Concerto K414, written for piano and orchestra when arranged for a reduced number of instruments?

TF In 1782 Mozart wrote and published three of his earliest piano concertos. Probably to sell more copies, he offered them in two different forms: firstly to be performed with an orchestra (strings, oboes, horns), and secondly, to be performed 'a quattro', that is with 2 violins, viola and cello. The version we will play today is taken from the version with quartet.