Since establishing the Phoenix Collective in 2018, the quartet, including internationally acclaimed violinist Dan Russell, have been popularising classical music and uncovering some astonishing deep cuts that otherwise go unheard. Phoenix Collective commence their 2020 season in Canberra with Intricate Machines, on 21 February 7pm at ANU School of Music, Acton, and 23 February 3pm at Wesley Music Centre, Forrest; pcmusic.net
1.The Phoenix Collective 2020 concert series highlights a number of different genres; what prompted that decision?
One of the main drives of the ensemble is to bring different music to the concert hall stage, and to also reach new audiences. We almost want to popularise the classical music world to make it a bit of a younger audience, and not just the older generation who enjoy this music. There’s something in this program for everyone.
2.What inspired you to found Phoenix Collective back in 2018?
Phoenix has a personal level of recreating oneself, and to a certain extent everyone has some element of the phoenix in their life. For me, it’s about actually getting out there, putting your cards on the table and saying ‘this is great work of this genre’; there’s some amazing stuff out there.
3.You’ve played the violin since you were five. What drew you to that instrument?
My mum took me and my brother into a music shop to choose our instruments. I chose the sax and the violin, mum got the violin, and from that point I never wanted to give up. I’m a teacher, too, and it’s very common for kids to find it too difficult or lose interest and want to give up. I’ve never had a career outside of music.
4.What do you make of the Canberra music scene?
I’ve done about four years of playing with CSO (Canberra Symphony Orchestra). I moved to Canberra at the end of last year, have quite quickly settled down here with my family and been able to pick up a bit of work. I still do a bit of performing in Sydney, but I don’t feel the need to continually hit the road. It’s a rewarding scene to be a part of.
5.What’s the difference between performing at a grand venue versus something more intimate?
There’s a lot of prestige that comes with playing in a big concert hall, and there’s a lot of excitement that comes with it. But when you perform to a smaller, intimate audience, you feel like you’re breathing the same air, and the music is closer and the communication is more immediate.
Russell’s answers have been condensed for publication.