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Chatting with Anton Nel (cont.)

AOS.com:  With your skill and pedigree, why did you select Austin as your home base -
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what makes the city a cultural touchstone for you?

A.N.:  When I was finishing graduate school in Cincinnati in 1986, I wanted to stay in the United States.  I had also decided early on that I wanted to pursue dual teaching/performing careers. The University of Texas was one of the first applications - it might have been the first, actually - that I put in the mail, and living and teaching here from 1986 to 1988 was a great experience.
    I needed to spread my wings and expand my horizons, but I always had it at the back of my mind that I was going to return here someday.  In my twelve absent years, I had great professorships at the Eastman
Anton Nel
(photo courtesy The Long Center)
School for four  years and the University of Michigan for eight years.
   And then the golden opportunity to come back here presented itself.  In addition to having a superb position at U.T., I find Austin a fantastic place to live in every way.  I consider myself very lucky to be here.

AOS.com:  You are considered one of the leading interpreters of works by Beethoven - what is it about his composition style that attracted you to his works?

A.N.:  Interestingly, my line of teachers go all the way back to Beethoven.  I studied in South Africa with an amazing man called Adolph Hallis, who was a Leschetitzky
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student, who studied with Liszt, who studied with Czerny, who studied with Beethoven!
     I happen to play a lot of Beethoven, but I wouldn’t call myself a specialist. There is something about his music that really speaks to me, and I seem to have an affinity for playing it.
    But I have a great love for many of the German/Austrian composers of the 18th and 19th centuries.  My choice of music for the Long Center recital clearly reflects this!

AOS.com:  In addition to an exhaustive performance schedule, you also teach at the University of Texas and conduct master classes across the nation.  Does teaching help you become a better performer?

A.N.: Absolutely. I find myself constantly checking to make sure that I practice what I preach - although I will tell my students: “Do as I say, don’t do as I do!”  I also like to believe that I can bring first-hand knowledge about performing to them. And I feel deeply committed to pass on what I have learned from my teachers over the years.

AOS.com:  As someone teaching the next generation of performers, what do you predict for the next generation of classical musicians?

A.N.: While classical music is a highly specialized art, there will always be room for it in the world. Our business has changed a lot in recent years, mostly due to the over-population of classical musicians - imagine all the thousands of graduates from universities every year looking for jobs!
    So, one has to be very creative and realistic in preparing the young musicians of today for their future.   Add to this the current financial state, which will - and has - already affected our field.

    Anton Nel plays the Long Center for the Performing Arts on March 29th at 4 p.m.  For tickets and information, visit www.TheLongCenter.org or call (512) 474-LONG (5664).
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