ANAM finalist: Magdalenna Krstevska, clarinet

ANAM Concerto Competition

This week, CutCommon chats with some of the ANAM Concerto Competition finalists, who will be performing with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra on 17 November. Magdalenna Krstevska, clarinet, will perform the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57.


Magdalenna Krstevska graduated with First Class Honours from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. She won the Australian National Young Virtuoso of the Year and the 3MBS Young Performer of the Year Awards. Magdalenna was a Featured Young Artist at the Canberra International Music Festival, and been a finalist in the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Great Romantics Competition. In 2016, she was the only Australian to be selected to participate in the Jacques Lancelot International Clarinet Competition in France. She has performed with the Melbourne, Sydney, and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, and she is the Australian Youth Orchestra’s principal clarinet.


Congratulations on being part of the ANAM Concerto Competition! How does it feel to progress to the finals?

Thank you! I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out I got through. It’s literally a dream come true and I feel so privileged to have this wonderful opportunity.

What did it take for you to make it so far in this competition? 

There were three rounds in the competition. Preparing for the first round was all about getting to know the piece in its early stages – learning all the notes and so forth. Lots of slow practice, isolating the trickier passages, etc.

For the second round, it was important to me to learn the piece from memory. Although it seems to be expected of pianists and string players, wind players less often have that pressure. I decided to do so because when you play without a music stand and sheet music in the way, there is the opportunity for a totally unobstructed connection and communication between you and your audience. It also makes you take charge of the work more. The music doesn’t just happen on the page in front of you – you have to make it happen; you carry each and every note.

For the final, the preparation has been about getting to know the full orchestral score as well as my own part. Up until now, I’ve been performing the piece with piano, which combines all the orchestral parts. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the full score and getting to know exactly which instrumental lines feature in which moments.

As an emerging artist, why is a competition like this important to you?

The opportunity to perform as a soloist with a professional orchestra is invaluable to the development of anyone aspiring to be a solo performer. Without these competitions, there is literally no way that a young Australian would have this sort of opportunity, unless they’re already an internationally recognised soloist.

I feel that a huge level of responsibility comes with this incredible opportunity to play a concerto. It’s a responsibility to completely drive the piece and know every single moment of it inside out until it’s second nature and a part of you. It’s a completely different kind of artistic leadership, and I find it incredibly exciting!

Tell us about the piece that you’ve decided to present. How did you choose it, and how does it show your skills?

If you’d asked me at the start of the year if there was a dream concerto that I’d like to play with orchestra, I would have said the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto. There’s nothing easy or light about this piece. It’s gutsy and complicated, with constant mood shifts and violent outbursts. It sounds like a person fighting against themselves in a deep internal struggle. There are moments of anger, caprice, joy, despair, contemplation, yet always with a lurking feeling of unsettledness. I feel like this piece is never easy, no matter how many times you play it. Every time you come back to it, there’s something more to find, somewhere deeper and darker that you can go. Ultimately, for me, the piece ends in a place of exhausted resignation, with a glimmer of hope.

How do you prepare your mind and music in the days leading up to your performance?

The biggest thing for me is to allow myself proper rest and time to recharge in the few days before a big performance. I’ll go through passages slowly, and just practice some fundamentals. I’ll be getting used to playing with the orchestra – can’t wait! And doing lots of mental practice – reading, singing through the music – rather than over-playing. Also, I’ll be reminding myself, when I get nervous, that this is just about one of the most exciting concerts of my life, so don’t forget to enjoy it!

Any advice for future musicians looking to make it to the finals, too?

Trust in yourself, and find what story you want to tell with the music. Be confident in your stage presence – remember that it’s not about playing every note perfectly, but rather about bringing the music to life!


Magdalenna will perform in the ANAM Concerto Competition finals with the TSO at 7.30pm in the Federation Concert Hall. You can also read our interview with Alexander Arai-Swale, double bass.

Images supplied. Magdalenna captured by Cameron Jamieson.

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