CSO Mixtape: Beyond the boundaries

by Canberra Symphony Orchestra Magazine

[blockquote author=”Alina Zamfir, CSO Viola”]

I struggle to acknowledge that I will never be able to hear or watch, learn or perform every single piece of music out there. The fact that there is always room for growth and improvement can be both a challenging and beautiful thing.

I hope you enjoy this highly varied CSO mixtape and come across a new artist or genre that you feel inspired to delve into more.


Alina Zamfir, CSO Viola (Image: Martin Ollman)

Alina Zamfir commenced the viola at the age of 15 and soon after chose to dedicate her life to music. She studied a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the tutelage of Roger Benedict, touring numerous times with the Sydney Conservatorium Symphony and Chamber Orchestra as Principal Viola to England, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany and America. These eye-opening experiences and cultural exchanges informed Alina’s decision to continue studies abroad.

Upon gaining her Masters of Music from the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Alina returned to Australia and commenced living the double life of teacher/performer. Discovering an untapped passion for string pedagogy, she developed her methods at various private schools across Sydney as well as through her private teaching studio. At the same time, Alina performed with the Sydney Art Quartet, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and The Metropolitan Orchestra, with the latter as Principal Viola.

In 2018, Alina moved to Canberra to take up an inaugural Kingsland Residency with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Between performance commitments with the CSO, she is a private violin and viola teacher at Canberra Grammar School, Radford College and through her private teaching studio.


Don’t Stop Me Now 
Written by Brian May, Freddie Mercury

(Album: Jazz)

I would have loved to have been alive during the 1970s and 80s to experience some of the best bands in history.

This song is dedicated to my best friend and sister in another life, Olga. This Queen album was the soundtrack to a road trip we did with some friends, from Salzburg to Switzerland, during a winter semester break. A small piece of advice – expect attention at the border if you cram five music students, all of different nationalities (including several dual passports), into a car with a Polish number plate! Also, make sure you have enough petrol for the 40-kilometre tunnels entering into Switzerland.

Piano Quintet in E flat, op. 44
4. Allegro, ma non troppo

This recording is particularly special to me: not only did I have the opportunity to study and perform it during my time at the Mozarteum, but my chamber music group was in fact mentored by members of the Hagen Quartet who were on faculty during my studies. The Hagen Quartet is one of the best in the world and the story of how it came (and remained) together is quite remarkable.

Boogie Unca Woogie

This lesser known Yugoslavian songwriter appeals to the Eastern-European within. His vibrant, good-humoured approach is always entertaining and gets people up and dancing.

Arvo PÄRT Tabula rasa
I. Ludus (Con moto)

[blockquote author=”Arvo Pärt”]

That is my goal. Time and timelessness are connected.



Kiss from a Rose

Seal didn’t include printed lyrics with the album, writing: “I think it’s the general vibe of what I’m saying that is important and not the exact literal translation…The song is always larger in the listener’s mind because with it they attach imagery which is relative to their own personal experience. It is your perception of what I’m saying rather than what I actually say that is the key.”

As an interpreter of black dots, constantly striving to bring new life and meaning to centuries-old pieces of music, I find Seal’s approach to open interpretation refreshing and something all artists should strive towards. This one is for you Mama – thanks for encouraging me to explore the boundaries of interpretation and musicality.

Maurice RAVEL
Tzigane, M. 76
Performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja,
Polina Leschenko

One of my favourite pieces of violin music, performed by one of my favourite violinists. Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a Moldovian pocket rocket violinist, an irresistible force of nature. Her approach is passionate, challenging and totally original.

MUSE Feeling Good
Written by Anthony Newley,
Leslie Bricusse

I have numerous friends who have been introduced to classical music and have come to appreciate it thanks to Muse. I find the fusion of classical and rock invigorating.

Symphony No. 6 in A minor ‘Tragic’
II. Scherzo. Wuchtig

[blockquote author=”Gustav Mahler”]

A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.


A difficult question I’m often asked is: “If you could only listen to or play a specific classical composer for the rest of your life, who would it be?” After many years of pondering, I have reached a conclusion. It’s Mahler, hands down.

I urge you to listen to everything he has written (preferably while reading about what a remarkable life he lived).

You Are My Sunshine

An oldie but a goodie.

Konzert für Viola und Orchester SZ 120 (1945) (Ed. Tibor Serly)
III. Allegro Vivace
Featuring Tabea Zimmermann

A staple of the viola repertoire, performed by one of the best violists in the world. 

I was fortunate enough to watch Tabea Zimmermann perform this concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra live in 2012. Eight years later and I still have goosebumps.

I’ve Never Been There

[blockquote author=”Amelie”]

Failure teaches us that life is but a draft, a long rehearsal for a show that will never play.


Written by Adam Clayton, Bono,
Larry Mullen Jr., The Edge

Another 1980s rock band indulgence. U2 was the first live band I saw, in Sydney when I was 17. The atmosphere in the stadium was indescribable. 

There’s a reason U2 have sold more than 140 million albums worldwide and won 22 Grammy Awards. 

Oliver DAVIS
Flight, Concerto for Violin & Strings: I

This piece was written in 2013 by British composer Oliver Davis, who has collaborated with ensembles including the Royal Ballet and produced a number of TV commissions.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92
Allegro con brio

[blockquote author=”Ludwig van Beethoven”]

Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.


Non, je ne regrette rien
Written by Charles Dumont,
Michel Vaucaire

[blockquote author=”Pablo Picasso”]

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.


The title of this classic summarises my philosophy on life. I’d like to dedicate this to my partner in music and life, Louis.

In the Summertime
Written by Mungo Jerry, Ray Dorset

Written in 1970 by British rock band Mungo Jerry, the title and laidback vibe of this song speaks for itself. Fun fact – it took lead singer Ray Dorset only 10 minutes to write during a work break at his day job.

This one is dedicated to my dad, who is the reason I have a musical palate beyond classical music. He introduced me to the glorious periods of music that were the 1970s and 80s.

Spice Up Your Life 
Written by Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, Matt Rowe, Melanie Chisolm, Richard Stannard, Victoria Beckham

(Album: Spiceworld)

This Spice Girls album was the first CD I ever received as a child. My poor parents were forced to endure dance performances to the entire record. If they spoke or didn’t seem engaged in my performance, we would have to start again from track one.

Twenty odd years later, I still struggle to sit still when I hear the Spice Girls. I challenge you NOT to boogie along to this one in the privacy of your own home (or down the aisle of your local supermarket).


Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re connected to the CSO.

Hello! My name is Alina Zamfir, I am a violist. I moved to Canberra along with my partner Louis two years ago as a recipient of the CSO’s Kingsland Residency.

Tell us a bit about someone who had a formative influence on you in your creative development.

My mother is a pianist and the reason I am a musician with an appreciation for art and creativity. Aside from giving me life and encouraging and supporting my musical education and development, my mother inspired me to pursuit ballet for the majority of my childhood, allowed me to learn instruments other than violin and viola (believe it or not, I was once a saxophonist!), fed me endless books, opened my eyes to classic films and artists and fiercely encouraged me to travel the world, to soak up as much culture and life as possible.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician?

At the age of eight, I remember coming across the concept of ‘never enough’. This was in relation to my love of books – I was shocked and slightly depressed about the idea that I would never be able to read every single book in the world.

I find that this concept very much applies to being a musician. Despite the challenges and sacrifices required to reach the ‘professional’ level, I still struggle to acknowledge that I will never be able to hear or watch, learn or perform every single piece of music out there. The fact that there is always room for growth and improvement, whether it be technical, musical, intellectual or emotional can be both a challenging and beautiful thing in my profession.

Some violists I know also struggle with the viola jokes thrown at us – personally, I embrace them and enjoy making up my own. Ironically, the joke is often on other members of the orchestra as the viola section sits there not being picked on.

Name three careers you could see yourself in if you weren’t a musician (and tell us why?)

Paramedic, midwife and forensic scientist/detective. The constant unknown associated with each of those jobs is appealing to me as well as the concept of providing assistance and comfort to people in need. I also have a slightly psycho fascination with detective/crime novels and the psychology behind why crimes are committed.

One super power you would like to have?

Time is such a fickle and complex concept – I would love to have control over it.

Describe your best and worst gigs.

During my Masters studies at the Mozarteum, there was a Christmas holiday where I chose stay in Salzburg as we only had slightly over a week off school. As most of the students had left for the holidays, I busied myself by accepting a New Year’s Day concert gig. (Picture an André Rieu-like setting in winter, with Austrian Pomp and Circumstance – all the waltzes!) Little did I know it would be outdoors in the Mozart Platz, minus 10 degrees, with snow coming straight at us on the stage. Combine this with slipping pegs on the string instruments, the fear of knowing pneumonia was awaiting us all at the end and an orchestra of which a quarter had come directly from New Year’s celebrations – a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons!

One of the best ‘gigs’ I performed was also in Salzburg, where the Mozarteum Orchestra performed for the Mozart Woche (Mozart Week) celebrations alongside prominent visiting orchestras. Playing in the golden Mozart Saal on a stage where some of the world’s greatest musicians had performed, around the corner from where Mozart and Heribert Ritter von Karajan were born, was truly memorable. My mother had also come to visit and was in the audience, so the temporary relief of homesickness added to the goose-bump nature of the performance.

If you were a piece of fruit, which would you be and why?

A lemon! They are zesty like my personality, fantastic disinfectants (for the germophobe within) and a delectable condiment. Yellow is quite a chirpy colour which I wouldn’t mind being. 

For what in life do you feel most grateful?

I am incredibly grateful for the efforts my parents made to migrate to Australia from Romania. Australia is such a heaven on earth compared to many other countries, which I believe offers people the opportunity to be the best version of themselves.

I am also incredibly fortunate that I get paid to do the three things I love most: to play and teach beautiful music and to inspire fellow human beings.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Take you work seriously – but don’t take yourself too seriously.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read recently?

I am currently reading The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. It is a dazzlingly original novel which asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.


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