STAN KORNEL – violinist and orchestra leader

Orchestra Leader Stan Kornel

Orchestra Leader Stan Kornel

Both choristers and audiences have observed the professional leadership which Stan Kornel has brought to our Orchestra since taking up the position We thought it would be of interest to learn something about Stan his music and other activities.

Q       Do you come from a musical family and where were you born?.

A       Yes my father played the piano for himself and my mother was a soprano. I was born in Canberra one of ten children. We all played and sang and were known as “The Trapp Family” (from the Sound of Music)

Q       How old were you when you first played the violin?  If very young was it a very small instrument?

A       I started playing the violin at 8 learning with a French teacher and two years later with Australia’s. greatest violinist Ernest Llewellyn. I have always played on a full size violin.  At that time they were just beginning to produce factory violins ¼, ½ and  ¾ so I had no choice and it was a struggle

Q       Did you have music at school and do you play another instrument?

A       There were music teachers in Canberra but I learned privately.  At 14 I left Canberra with the family for Europe/Poland where I attended the state music school/Conservatorium.  I learned piano and taught myself the viola and the 14 string viola d’amore.

Q       What make of violin do you play now and does it have an interesting history?

A       My Panormo violin on which I played for 43 years died two years ago when I tripped and fell on it smashing it into 80 pieces.  I bought an Italian Paulo de Barbieri 1919. This instrument belonged to an old man who bought it and loved it so much that he couldn’t put it down especially when asked to lunch or dinner by his jealous wife.  One day feeling totally ignored, she came up with a fruit knife shouting “either me or this wood” With a heavy heart he gave the violin back to Barbieri. It couldn’t ‘be sold for many years as the locals considered it cursed.  An Englishman eventually bought it.  Come and see my fiddle up close next concert.*

Q       After graduation where did your musical career lead you?

A       As a poor yet gifted musician I started to work as a professional at the end of high music school . At 20 I started my career playing in a Symphony Orchestra. I had two years as soloist, leader and concertmaster of a newly established Chamber Orchestra.  Another two years as Concertmaster in a Radio Television orchestra.  I moved to Italy for two years of opera at La Scala. I also played in the Festival Orchestra in Vienna and for two years with La Fenice -Venice.  I moved back to Australia and played with the ACO and Opera Australia.  Since 1988 I am a permanent member of the SSO. My career is not only orchestral.  I have given many solo recitals, chamber music and concerto performances with orchestras.  I have recorded at least 18 CD’s and teach at all levels.

Q       While playing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is there a particular conductor whose leadership gives you inspiration?

A        There have been many incredible conductors in my 35 years of orchestral playing but the most truthful and talented are Yuri Termikanof and Charles Dutoit. I could tell many stories about both of these.

Q       Is there a special orchestral piece that gives you the greatest pleasure to play

A       Brahms Symphony No 3, Shostakovich No 8, Mahler No 1,  Prokofiev 1, all six Brandenberg concertos and St. John’s Passion

Q       While not involved in music what activities do you enjoy? You might like to tell us about your fly fishing.

A       I have a few activities I enjoy when and if I have time apart from music.  I am a book worm and read two or three books each week.  I have to be careful as I tend to read all night forgetting that I have work in the morning.  I love digging, composting, enriching the soil and tending my herbs and vegetables.  Fishing has been my outdoor activity for the last 35 years.  Ten years ago I acquired my first Tinnie boat . Today every fishing possibility is with my 70hp boat be it salt or fresh water.  Regarding fly fishing, I have tried many times but never caught a trout or salmon with spinning.

Q       Your wife Monica is a talented musician. Where did you meet her?

A       I am a very lucky man I have been married to my wife for 32 years and haven’t regretted a single day.  I am six years older than she.  We met at a combined orchestral school performance of Percolesi’s Stabat Mater.  As a talented pianist she performed Bach’s piano harpsichord concerto with my orchestra a few weeks later.  Two years later we tied the knot

Q       Is there any conflict (perhaps amusing} in sharing a house with another professional musician?

A       Strangely enough most of our conflicts are derived while making music together or when our children are practising their instruments. Apart from this we eat and drink music and this often helps to solve any misunderstandings.

Q       So you do have children.  Are they interested in music?

A       We have three children all adults now.  They were all involved in music.  Both sons played 8th grade cello and our daughter violin and guitar.  They all left music with the exception of our first born son who is an accomplished Rapp Artist….Go to King Shifty!

Q       You obviously find time to read if so what are you reading at present?

A       I always find time to read.  If it wasn’t for the occasional TV I would read more.  I enjoy crime novels and at present I am reading an English best seller by Peter Robinson “Bad Boy”

Q         Tell us about the Sydney Consort and its plans for the future.

A         The Sydney Consort is an established Ensemble who play 18th century music. It was founded and is managed by Monica and me. We perform regularly in St. Augustine’s Church at Balmain and in Canberra. We tour Europe every second year. We have recorded 6 CD’s with invited musicians We would like to tour Australia but need a financial sponsor We also plan a chamber music festival in Balmain but again we need a little financial help

Q         You have been leader of the Sydney University Graduate Choir and Orchestra for some time now. What is your verdict about their music-making?

A         My verdict? Dawn , I always tell the truth where it concerns music making.  I have hurt a lot of people’s ego in that respect, but at least they get the bare facts. I’m just as critical about my own playing, and that is why I will retire faster than people think!  Anyway, my answer is such: I don’t think that the choir would be so successful if not for their passionate, dedicated, insulting and shouting maestro – Christopher Bowen!  He is a tyrant, but that’s the necessity for any excellent ensemble, be it a choir or an orchestra.  I could quote you many examples!!! But for any ensemble to electrify its audience it needs: passion, extra hard work, belief in its leader and love for music! Enough?  That is my opinion about the Uni Graduate Choir.  If I didn’t enjoy our music making together, I would have pulled out after our first concert.  I love the choir and can’t wait to play the Zelenka Mass!  What terrific music we are about to encounter. It’s hard for me to describe my feelings.  Happily speechless!!!


Stan and Monica

Interviewed by Dawn Plasto.

*POSTSCRIPT. Just read about my old, smashed to smithereens Panormo violin! Yes it was a Vincenzo T Panormo and it was built on the way between Parma and London – most probably in the Bohemia region – Prague/Vienna – when the Panormo family moved to improve their financial situation. London was a haven for the Italians! It took him two years to get there. Mike McMahon (one of the greatest repair specialists in the world) is building a tiny “dancers” violin called the pochete using the beautiful engraved neck and head from this wasted Panormo violin. When it’s built, I will perform with my baroque group on this pochete! …. that’s another story, rgds Stan


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