Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Classical / Industry News

Vale Peter Sculthorpe

One of Australia's best known and most loved composers, Peter Sculthorpe, has passed away aged 85. He was best known for his ability to capture the true sound and essence of the Australian outback with music that could be appreciated by all Australians. The strains of Kakadu or Earth Cry can still be heard from music classrooms across the country as new generations discover the magic of his music. We take a moment to reflect on his life, music and achievements....

"While on the surface it might appear to be painting a picture, I mean what I'm really doing ... is seeking the sacred in nature," 

Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1929, Sculthorpe was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School before going on to study at the University of Melbourne and then winning a scholarship to Oxford University. Music, art and literature playing a formative role in his upbringing. In 1930s Australia, composition wasn’t perceived as a viable career path. Even his first music teacher didn’t see any point in teaching composition: ‘All the composers,’ she told the class with derision, ‘are dead.’  Undeterred, Sculthorpe went on to write in most musical forms, especially orchestral, chamber and instrumental music. He was appointed Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, where he began teaching in 1964 and a Harkness Fellow at Yale University. 

"Australia really is the only place I think for an Australian composer.
I know that I can't work properly outside the country"

His music was influenced by the world around him and the issues of society at the time. His fascination with the Australian landscape can be heard in works such as Earth Cry whilst his concern with social issues, such as the plight of refugees in Australian detention centres and the killing of women and children in Iraq, are reflected in String Quartet No 16 and Requiem respectively. Works such as the Sun Music suites in the 1960s and landscape pieces like Kakadu have been described as having "shaped an Australian orchestral sound". Despite the topical nature of his works, the music retains a timeless quality that ensures it remains accessible to future generations. Although almost 30 years have passed since Earth Cry was first performed, it's message is still relevant today.

 "I often wonder if I was destined to be a composer.
I think I decided and I followed my star."

Appointed OBE in 1977 and AO in 1990, Sculthorpe was elected one of Australia’s Living National  Treasures in 1998 and was the recipient of a Silver Jubilee Medal. An Honorary Foreign Life Member  of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he held honorary doctorates from the universities of  Tasmania, Melbourne, Sussex, Griffith and 
Sydney and in 2011 was awarded the Encomienda de la Orden de
Isabel la Católica 
by Juan Carlos I of Spain.


    Vale Peter Sculthope

1929 - 2014
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