Profile: Amanda Cook – classical guitarist

On Wednesday 5 July Amanda Cook, “The guitar queen with a silken touch” (The Independent) presents an inspiring programme of Romantic and Contemporary music by the celebrated composers Verdery, Domeniconi, Assad & Torroba at St Pancras Church, Chichester, for the Festival of Chichester.

Watch a video interview on SussexWorld.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

This is the fortieth anniversary of my guitar playing. I will be drawing on the repertoire that I loved right from an early age. I will be playing some pieces by better-known composers, such as Verdery, Domeniconi and Torroba, but also pieces by lesser-known ones. There will be folk, Latin and jazz – so, something for everyone!

I’ll be introducing my audiences to these pieces and their composers. And the music will come from Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela and Spain – perfect for a summer’s evening!

While much of my more recent music making is with the Vida Guitar Quartet, I am looking forward to doing a solo recital.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Jacqueline du Pré made a big impact on me as an impressionable teenager, not only through the energy and passion she showed for her music, but also the generous spirit she showed in interviews.

I heard the Scottish classical guitarist David Russell at the age of 15. I’ve been greatly influenced by his interpretation, and have attended many masterclasses with him, including at West Dean College (near Chichester).

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Self-promotion – which is very necessary in my type of career – doesn’t come easily. I’ve also suffered from performance anxiety, which I experienced particularly sharply when I returned to performing after having had my children. In response to this I did a lot of research into this area and, as a result, altered my way of practicing and thinking about the connection between the practice room and concert hall which turned it all into a positive experience.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

It’s so liberating sharing live performances with other musicians, and there are often many funny moments. When you’re working with others, you exist in an atmosphere of trust, which is something precious.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

I particularly love the Romantic composers, such as Torroba: often there’s a story to be told. I also love Dowland, Cutting and others from the Renaissance for their clarity of lines. My job is to keep their counterpoint unfussy and light. And there are many contemporary composers with an original voice, such as Ben Verdery, Roland Dyens and finally William Lovelady, who’s inspired by poetry and nature.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

I collaborated with the composer William Lovelady at two memorial services held in Omagh to mark the first anniversary of the Omagh bombing in 1998. It was an emotional and powerful experience: the music did the talking.

For many years my dream was to perform a solo recital at the Wigmore Hall, so my debut performance there was very special.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be open to all the opportunities that come along; don’t get fixated on one path, and be prepared to embrace things that you initially may think aren’t for you. Make sure – even if you’re tending towards being a solo musician – that you spend lots of time working with others: there’s so much learning that you can make which can be brought back into your solo performance.

How would you define success as a musician?

For me, if I’ve connected with the audience and if I feel that they’ve got something positive from listening then I’ve succeeded.

What would you like to be doing in 5 yearstime?

Performance wise, much of the same – balancing solo work with deepening my collaboration with the soprano Bibi Heal and the Vida Guitar Quartet, as well as working on more collaborations with composers.

About Amanda

Dubbed “The guitar queen with a silken touch” by The Independent, Amanda has appeared as a soloist in the USA, South America and throughout Europe. In the UK venues include the South Bank, Wigmore Hall, St George’s Bristol, King’s Place and The Sage Gateshead. Her highly acclaimed performances are always noted for their sensitive musicality, fluid technique, and ability to draw the audience in to her world.

Amanda’s first guitar teacher was Alexander Levtov, whom she spent seven years with from the age of 7. She then went on to study with Charles Ramirez at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music, as a scholarship student. Amanda then carried on to do her music degree at the RCM, as a Foundation Scholar, continuing with Mr Ramirez and then with Jakob Lindberg and Gary Ryan. Whilst at the College Amanda won several prizes for her performances, and outside of College she won the 1995 Admira Young Guitarist of the Year, 1997 Ivor Mairants Guitar Award and the 1998 Carol Evershed Martin Award for solo instrumentalists.

After leaving the RCM, she went onto study in New York with Benjamin Verdery thanks to the support from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust.

Amanda has been broadcast on television and radio, both abroad and in the UK, including BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” & “Late Junction”, BBC Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour,” and Classic FM. Along with solo work Amanda has always had a passion for chamber music and has worked in various duos and ensembles through her career including the Appassionata Guitar Trio, G Plus Ensemble and more recently with the renowned soprano Bibi Heal and the critically acclaimed Vida Guitar Quartet, who regularly tour the USA, Europe and China.

Teaching has always been important to Amanda and she often gives classes at Festivals and adjudicates music competitions. Amanda was course director at the International Guitar Festival for five years and has also sat on the jury for several International Competitions including the GFA 2015 in Oklahoma and the 2019 Euro Strings Competition. Amanda is a patron of the Federation of Guitar Societies.

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