Who or what inspired you to take up the flute and pursue a career in music?
My parents aren’t musicians so those who inspired me have been my music teachers in Montepulciano (Siena -Tuscany), where I lived.
First of all they chose me to be part of a children’s choir for a festival founded and directed by the composer Hans Werner Henze, who lived in the same town. My first musical experience ever was singing in a contemporary opera!
Then there was the chance of learning an instrument for free at my school but my parents didn’t sign me up because my foreign language was French, which was taught in the non musical course.
One day, my music teacher phoned my Mum and, quite upset, said: “Why you didn’t sign Sara up for instrumental lessons? This is such a great opportunity for her!” So my Mum did.
I was interested in the flute and the piano. Professors from the Conservatoire in Florence came to my school to test the children who wanted to learn an instrument. They thought the flute was the right instrument for me and advised me to try it. From the very first sound I made on the flute, I loved the instrument so much that I couldn’t stop playing it. I kept playing and playing, and have become a professional musicians because there’s nothing else I enjoy more and would spend most of my time for.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Meeting composers has been crucial for my career and musical choices. The first most important composer I met was the Italian Alessandro Solbiati: he’s been influential. I was learning his first piece for flute, a really big and dense piece, and I decided to meet the composer and play the piece to him.
As a young musician trying to explore different career opportunities, I was doing many things, but my passion for contemporary repertoire was getting bigger and bigger.
When I played Solbiati’s piece to him, it was one of the most inspiring moments of my life: it was so fantastic to be able of sharing my interpretation with the composer himself and to learn from him. He was so positive about my performance and so encouraging. From that moment, the contemporary repertoire and work with composers have become my priority.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
There have been a few challenges: from health issues to financial challenges.
Also, starting out in a new country – the U.K. – from scratch, without knowing anyone or having somewhere to sleep, that was pretty challenging but very exciting as well!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very proud of NEW RESONANCES, my very first solo album which is just born!!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I think Contemporary Classical Music is what I play best.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
My mission is to train audiences and to make contemporary music accessible to all (that’s ambitious, isn’t it?). I like to create programmes which combine a variety of contemporary styles, and I always try to include a new commission in my programmes.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I have performed in many great venues. The acoustics at the concert hall at Fairfield Halls (in Croydon) were memorable. I have performed a solo recital there and it was just amazing to play solo in such a huge hall where any sounds (even the quietest extended technique) found their perfect resonance.
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are many musicians I admire but I don’t have a specific one; there are good things I take from all of them.
Composers are the most inspiring musicians for me.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I am lucky, I have many memorable concert experiences. I could mention my recent recital for my solo album launch in London, my solo recitals at National Gallery and Fairfield Halls, my concert at Vox Feminae Festival at Tel Aviv.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success is when a project or a performance is well-received. When members of the audience tell me that my performance has emotionally touched them, that’s a big success for me.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Talent without hard work is pointless and working hard on the instrument isn’t enough. Some entrepreneurial skills are also necessary.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is: the right balance between professional and personal life. I also think that happiness comes from unconditional love. Doing what I love most – playing my flutes – surrounded by people who love me and support me, that’s the ideal happiest context for me.
Sara Minelli’s debut solo album ‘New Resonances’ is released on 27 July 2018 on Italian new music label EMA Vinci. It includes pieces for solo flute; alto flute; and flute and electronics and contains new works written for Sara by Alessandro Solbiati, Jonathan Cole, Alessandro Magini and Matteo Giuliani. It also includes the world premiere recording of ‘As if to land’, the first work for solo flute by Alessandro Solbiati, presented here alongside some of Sara’s favourite works by Brian Ferneyhough and Salvatore Sciarrino.
SARA MINELLI is an Italian flautist based in London with an extensive repertoire of new music and a growing reputation for exquisite live performances. In 2016 she received the Artists’ International Development Fund from Arts Council England which led to several performances in Israel.
She is highly regarded as a solo performer and has played extensively in the UK including at London Contemporary Music Festival, King’s Place, Fairfield Halls, Little Missenden Festival, the National Gallery, Handel House and Kettle’s Yard. Her solo international performances include Vox Feminae Festival (Israel) , Klangspuren Festival (Austria), Les Moments Musicaux de la Touraine (France) and GAMO International Festival (Florence). Sara was also selected to perform in the Klangspuren International Ensemble Modern Academy in 2014 where she worked with members of Ensemble Modern, composer Hans Abrahamsen and conductor Brad Lubman.
Sara has received special recognition as a soloist with awards including the The International Valentino Bucchi Prize and the Alberto Gori Prize. She is the dedicatee of works for solo flute by Alessandro Solbiati, Jonathan Cole, Matteo Giuliani, Marina Leonardi, Maria Vatenina, Alessandro Magini, Hyunjoo Kim and Andrea Benedetto. She has also worked as a solo interpreter for UK composers including Richard Causton, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Jeremy Thurlow.