Mathisha Panagoda – Australian Musician Spotlight

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Born in Sydney, Mathisha Panagoda began learning the cello at the age of four.

This week, debussycat conducts a Q&A with Australian cellist Mathisha Panagoda. Mathisha is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Sydney Camerata, recipients of the 2010 Musica Viva Award for Chamber Music. He is the cellist of the Silvaner Ensemble, a winner of the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra and blogs for ABC Limelight Magazine.

Born in Sydney, Mathisha Panagoda began learning the cello at the tender age of four. He completed a Bachelor of Music (Honours), studying under Danish cellist Georg Pederson at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and holds a Juris Doctor in law from the University of Sydney. Mathisha has performed as a member of the Melbourne, Queensland and Sydney Symphony Orchestras as well as the Australian Youth Orchestra.  In 2009 he was the recipient of a Symphony Australia National Fellowship.
Mathisha has travelled the world with his cello. As principal cellist and a soloist of the SBS Radio & Television Youth Orchestra, he toured Europe, Russia and Hong Kong. As a member of the AYO, he has participated in two international tours to Europe and Asia performing at festivals including the BBC Proms (one of the world’s greatest classical music festivals). In Japan, Mathisha was selected as an academy member of the Pacific Music Festival and just last year he was invited to perform with the Aldeburgh Strings, a new international string orchestra based in the UK.

Q&A with Mathisha

What inspired you to form Sydney Camerata?

I was inspired to form Sydney Camerata to provide opportunities for musicians at a similar stage in their careers to me. In my final year of study at the Sydney Conservatorium, I was looking for more opportunities to gain practical experience- in particular in an ensemble inspired by groups such as the ACO where the style of working is a close nexus with chamber music. I was fortunate to have some friends who shared a similar desire and together we began to plan some concerts that have developed into our Sydney Camerata concert series.

What is the group dynamic like?

The group has a very unique dynamic for a number of reasons. All the musicians are highly trained and talented so they bring with them a refined set of skills. The musicians are all ‘young’ (generally between 20 and 30 years of age) and come with a fresh, modern day approach to classical music. Being young and talented, many of these musicians are on the cusp of professional careers. For many of them, playing with Sydney Camerata is an exciting opportunity to work independently of the confines of an institution or symphony orchestra. Everyone is there for the love of music, they work as professionals and have a lot of fun along the way. For this reason the dynamic of the group is one of great enthusiasm, energy and excitement.

How often do you practice?

We rehearse in intensive periods, not only because we find this the most effective and efficient method, but many of our musicians also fly from interstate to play with us. Usually musicians will be posted music a few weeks prior to rehearsals commencing so they can prepare their parts. We will generally begin rehearsals 4 or 5 days prior to a performance. The first day will usually be sectionals and rehearsals for principal players to discuss technicalities such as bowings and musical ideas. We will then spend a few days rehearsing daily to put the program together.

I’ve been enjoying your posts on Limelight Magazine. What kinds of things do you think your readers are most interested in?

The purpose of my blog is to follow my journey as a young musician in Australia. I think my readers like to hear about my personal experiences and thoughts in relation to music. Many are very interested to hear about the sorts of opportunities young people have in this country and I’m delighted to be able to share my experiences with them.

What’s your favourite symphony?

Probably Beethoven 9 or Brahms 4 but I also can’t go past Shostakovich and Dvorak Symphonies.

What’s your favourite type of classical music?

Very difficult question but I’m particularly into chamber music, string orchestra music and large symphonic music. More recently I’ve started exploring more contemporary composers such as Golijov and Vasks.

Favourite composer?

An impossible question but if I had to narrow it down it would probably be either Beethoven, Brahms or Tchaikovsky but there really are too many more to name!

What do you think makes classical music special?

What makes classical music special is its ability to transcend reality and transport the listener to another place. It’s often an intellectual exercise unique in that it involves three people- the composer, performer and listener. These three people can be from different parts of the world and have lived in different eras yet their synthesis creates something new every time.

The thing that I love most about classical music is that it’s an endless journey of discovery. I listen to a lot of other styles of music and while I will enjoy but be sick of a pop song in a matter of weeks, there is so much to discover in most pieces of classical music that they stay with you for life.

How do you think the digitalisation of media will affect classical music in the future?

The digitalisation of classical music will help it to reach new audiences and transcend formalities that have often turned people away from it. You no longer have to dress up and pay a lot of money to go to a concert hall to find yourself sitting in the back row. I watched the Berlin Philharmonic in my pyjamas in my bedroom via their Digital Concert Hall online last week. Still nothing beats a live performance for me, but the digital era has the potential to breathe much needed fresh air into classical music.

The Sydney Camerata

 ©  Sabina Chitty – debussycat Sydney Classical Music Guide