Interviews - 4.08.2022

Happy to be home

We sat down with our newly appointed Principal Double Bass, Annabella Zilber, for a little kōrero about her musical journey thus far and what she’s most looking forward to in her new role.

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Principal Double Bass with the CSO, Bella. We are just thrilled to have you here!

Do you want to start by giving our online fam a little rundown on your musical career to date?

Sure! I chose the bass partly based on a set of criteria I made when I was 12 (odd, yes!). I wanted to play an instrument that had a deep sound, was large, but could still be easily transported. The jury is still out on that last bit, but I'm so glad that I did choose the bass as it has taken me all over the world and introduced me to some amazing music and some pretty incredible people.

Places I've taken my bass include Australia, China, Japan, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and the USA, where I studied for my Masters. I've been firmly rooted in NZ since 2011 though, when I joined the Auckland Philharmona Orchestra as Associate Principal Bass. I started with the CSO in June this year and couldn't be happier to be home.

So, Ōtautahi is your hometown, yes? What excites you the most about living back in the Garden City once again?

It has been so wonderful to live close to my family after so many years away. I'm also very much enjoying the proximity to the outdoors and have been getting out on my bike as much as possible.

Ah yes, that’s the beauty of a life in Canterbury, eh - we are spoilt for choice if you love getting into the outdoors.

Skipping back over to music, what's your favourite genre to perform? Or do you have any favourite composers?

Hmm, that's a tough one, it's so hard to choose. I enjoy the challenge of playing Mozart as it's so difficult to do well but is the most rewarding when you get it right.

In terms of my favourite composer to listen to, Brahms is the ultimate. There's a very special place in my heart just for his music.

We love a Brahms moment here at the CSO! What are you most looking forward to in your new role with us?

I'm very excited about the variety of work that my new role in the CSO offers, with our Community Engagement work running side-by-side with our on-stage performances.

It has also been really wonderful to reconnect with musician friends that I haven't seen in some time, both from my Christchurch Youth Orchestra days and my time studying in Wellington. I'm looking forward to all the music making we'll do together.

We understand Double Bass players can hold their bows in one of two ways, so which bow hold style do you vibe with - French or German?

I play French bow, which is the same style of bow that you would recognize from the other string instruments in the orchestra. It's held overhand, whereas the bass-specific German bow is held underhand.

Both styles have their pros and cons. Some bassists can play both styles of bow but most will feel more comfortable with one over the other, usually the style of bow that they learned when they were beginners.

Fascinating! Because everyone loves a good "What's In Your Bag" moment, what are the Top 5 absolute must-have items in your Double Bass case?

1. Rosin! Pops is my all-time-favourite, but due to pandemic supply chain issues it’s impossible to get the fresh stuff at the moment (and it has to be fresh). So I’m waiting on a shipment of Kolstein Soft which I’m hoping will solve all of my rosin woes!

2. Tuner

3. Rag for cleaning the sticky rosin residue off the instrument

4. Pencil

5. Bass

Aaaand, the bonus quickfire round!

  1. Cats or Dogs? Dogs
  2. Early Bird or Night Owl? Night Owl
  3. Tea or Coffee? Coffee
  4. Left-Handed or Right-Handed? Right handed
  5. Mahler or Bruckner? Mahler when I was younger, but Bruckner has been growing on me in recent years. I love his writing for brass, less so his writing for bass… a Bruckner symphony usually also entails a visit to the physio afterwards


Annabella Zilber joins the CSO as Principal Double Bass after ten years as Associate Principal Double Bass with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Prior to this, Bella earned degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she studied with Paul Ellison.