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Convenor of the Women in Music program
School of Music
School of Music
Violinist, baroque violinist and kamancheh player Anna McDonald was born in Canberra and completed her Bachelor of Music at the Canberra (now ANU) School of Music, receiving the Friends’ Prize for outstanding graduate. Under two consecutive Australia Council scholarships, she continued her violin studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, doing the Advanced Solo Studies course with David Takeno. Her study at the Guildhall was followed by baroque violin lessons with Elizabeth Wilcock, Catherine Mackintosh and Ingrid Seifert.
While based in London, Anna became concertmaster of the Gabrieli Consort and Players, the Hanover Band and the Avison Ensemble. She toured widely in Europe and the Americas, as soloist, leader and director. She also performed and recorded with the Purcell Quartet, the English Concert, English Baroque Soloists, London Baroque, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Florilegium.
Anna’s discography includes leading the Gabrieli Consort and Players for a number of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon Archiv, including Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah and Theodora, and Handel arias with Rolando Villazon. Additionally, she played 17th century chamber works in their recordings: Music For San Rocco and Easter Mass. With the Hanover Band, she played solo violin in a number of recordings of JC Bach Concerti for CPO.
After her return to Australia in 1999, Anna was the founding concertmaster of Pinchgut Opera. She was also the concertmaster of the ABC’s recording orchestras Sinfonia Australis and Orchestra of the Antipodes for 10 years, leading projects such as the complete Brandenburg Concerti (for which she was also co-director) and the Five Beethoven piano concerti with Gerard Willems. She recorded a CD of Veracini violin sonatas with Erin Helyard and Tommie Andersson for the Artworks label.
Anna has collaborated with Lars-Ulrik Mortensen, Geoffrey Lancaster, Genevieve Lacey and many other musicians in festivals such as the Canberra International Chamber Music Festival, Barossa Valley Festival, Castlemaine Festival, and New England Bach Festival.
In 2018, Anna was awarded a composer’s residency as part of a program run by the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers House Trust, at Golden Vale, NSW. A developing interest in music of the east and a variety of intercultural projects, including leading the Madakto Orchestra for Australian tours of Shahram Nazeri and Alireza Ghorbani of Iran, developed into a composition-based PhD at the ANU. In this study she is also emphasising the role of psychology and cultural identity in musical performance.
Anna has given papers at the 2007 ANU – Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference and at the 2008 Western Australian Piano Pedagogy Convention on the subject of ‘Working with the Inner Critic’, which helps to free musicians from their conditioning and create greater self-expression, confidence and authenticity. Anna continues this work through private sessions with musicians.
With her husband Malek Mohammadi Nejad, Anna is co-director of the Ensemble of the Eternal Land, which explores cultural intersections between Iran and the west through their original compositions. Their debut CD Karavan Kosh, for Iranian kamancheh and setar, was recently released.
In January 2023, she is giving a paper on “Mithraism and Music” for a Templeton Foundation-funded workshop on “Harmony of the Spheres”.