John Coolidge Adams (born 1947)


Thomas Arne (1710-1778) is today remembered for little else apart from the song “Rule, Britannia!” In his day, however, Arne was a prolific composer for the London stage. He wrote operas in English (Artaxerxes being the most significant), ballad operas, masques and pantomimes, and composed music for plays, including the works of Shakespeare. “Rule, Britannia!” comes from the masque, Alfred. Arne’s career overlapped with that of his more famous contemporary and fellow Londoner, George Frideric Handel. A Catholic, Arne composed some masses, odes, cantatas, many songs and a small quantity of instrumental music including concertos and sonatas. According to the Oxford Companion to Music, Arne “appears to have been something of a scoundrel”. He sounds like a most interesting man.

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Bach, C P E

With its irregular, non-symmetrical phrasing, sudden shifts in harmony, and melodic twists and turns, the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) constantly surprises. Musical aptitude ran through the Bach family. Centred around Saxony and Thuringia in Germany, the Bachs were a force in music for many hundreds of years. C P E Bach, one of the sons of Johann Sebastian, ventured out of the traditional Bach homelands and made his career in Berlin and Hamburg. Indeed, for many years he was a keyboard player in the service of Frederich II (aka Frederick the Great) of Prussia. In addition to composing a significant quantity of keyboard music, C P E Bach wrote a very important treatise on playing the instrument, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. Bach’s essay also offers important nuggets of information on musical style and taste generally. In 1768 he succeeded Telemann as director of music in Hamburg and, in this new role, produced a considerable body of Protestant church music. C P E Bach’s music sounds nothing like his father’s. He eschewed complex polyphony in favour of cleaner textures and is regarded as a key exponent of the Empfindsamer Stil (expressive style).

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Bach, J C

Often known as the ‘London Bach’, Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), one of the sons of Johann Sebastian Bach, left Saxony, the traditional stronghold of the Bach family, and made his career in the English capital. Aged only 15 when his father died, J C Bach travelled first of all to Berlin where he studied with his half-brother, C P E Bach, and later abandoned Germany for Italy, living in Milan for a number of years (1755-1761). Already an unconventional career trajectory for a Bach, J C Bach’s career became still more unconventional when he entered the Roman Catholic communion and developed an interest in opera. Indeed, the success of his operas in Italy brought his name to the attention of the King’s Theatre in London, which commissioned two operas from him for the 1762-3 season (Orione and Zanaida). Bach left Italy for England in 1762 and was based in London for the remainder of his life. Despite his activities as a composer of opera, his posthumous reputation rests largely on his contribution to the symphony and concerto. Indeed, his music was highly influential upon the young Mozart, who came to know J C Bach when the Mozart family spent 18 months in London as part of their pan-European tour. Significantly, Mozart’s earliest experiments with piano concertos are arrangements of works by J C Bach. In subsequent years Mozart’s father, Leopold, reminded his son of the pleasing and agreeable works of the ‘London Bach’. He praised it as music worthy of emulation.

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Bach, J S

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was one of the leading composers of the Baroque. Although he never left central and northern Germany (he held positions in Weimar, Cöthen and Leipzig and his travels took him to Hamburg, Lübeck and Berlin), Bach was fully aware of musical developments elsewhere in Europe and remained up-to-date with music by his Italian contemporaries, Vivaldi above all. He also had a secure understanding of the French style. In fact, Bach was able to turn his hand to Italian and French styles with ease. As a writer of contrapuntal music (i.e. music which proceeds by simultaneously weaving different melodic lines), he was without peer. He was also an outstanding organist and was able to improvise contrapuntal music at the keyboard. A devout Lutheran, Bach wrote a huge quantity of music for the church, including cantatas, chorales, Passions and organ works. He also wrote a Catholic Mass, the colossal Mass in B minor. His music for keyboard includes the monumental Well-Tempered Clavier and his orchestral music includes the Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Suites. He fathered 20 children, ten of whom survived infancy including the composers C P E Bach and J C Bach.

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American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) is best known for a single work, the celebrated Adagio for Strings. The Adagio, in fact, is an arrangement of the slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet, which was composed in 1936. Barber had no interest in 20th-century modernist aesthetics, preferring to write in a lyrical, mildly chromatic vein. American idioms such as jazz and the ‘prairie’ style of Aaron Copland also held little attraction for him. That said, he ventures reasonably close to the latter in his work for soprano and orchestra, Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Given his conservative bent, Barber’s output includes symphonies, concertos and sonatas. He also composed operas, including Antony and Cleopatra, which was written for the opening of New York’s Metropolitan Opera in its new home at Lincoln Centre in 1966. Barber’s partner was fellow composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

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When he wasn’t composing, Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was out in the field recording the songs and dances of Eastern European peasant cultures. Bartók was a trailblazing ethnomusicologist, accumulating thousands of recordings of the folk music of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, above all. He even ventured further afield, recording music in Turkey and northern Africa. Not surprisingly, his ethnomusicological research seeped into his own compositions, mainly in the form of scales and harmonies that lie outside the Western tonal tradition, and rhythms and time signatures that likewise do not conform to ‘classical’ norms. In addition to his own original music, Bartók arranged some of the music which he collected out in the field for Western ensembles (e.g. the Romanian Folk Dances for small ensemble). His six-volume piano collection Mikrokosmos is an important pedagogical resource (the 153 pieces are arranged in ascending order of difficulty) as well as a fascinating anthology of his personal style(s). Bartók left his native Hungary in 1940 and settled in the United States. Sadly, his final years were marked by declining health and professional neglect. He was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1944 and died in New York the following year. Bartók’s most significant works include the Concerto for Orchestra, three piano concertos, two violin concertos, six string quartets and the one-act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle.

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) hardly needs any introduction. The composer of nine symphonies, five piano concertos, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets, the opera Fidelio and many other works, Beethoven is firmly ensconced on classical music’s A-list. A native of Bonn and long-time resident of Vienna, Beethoven lived at a time of political, social and cultural transition including the events and consequences of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It was a time when classical music left the grand houses of the aristocracy and entered the marketplace. Rather than being beholden to an aristocratic patron, Beethoven wrote for the concert-going public. Which is not to say that he did not enjoy the patronage of Viennese aristocrats – quite the contrary – but that he inverted the composer-patron power relationship so that the aristocrat sought the association with the composer rather than the other way around. The status of the composer, in other words, was raised immeasurably. Beethoven was also a crucial figure in elevating the status of instrumental music and using music as a force for the expression of human subjectivity. Sorrow, despair, triumph and joy are some of the states that he explores in his music. Beethoven suffered from a degenerative hearing disorder and was totally deaf before he reached the age of 50. Nevertheless, he continued to compose, writing the Symphony No 9, late piano sonatas and late string quartets in the last decade of his life.

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Best known for the opera Wozzeck, Alban Berg (1885-1935) was one of the composers of the Second Viennese School, a small group clustered around master teacher Arnold Schoenberg. Taking their point of departure from the highly chromatic music of the late 19th century, the composers of the Second Viennese School saturated their music with still more chromaticisms to the point where key (i.e. major/minor tonality) was obliterated. Thus was born ‘atonal’ music – music in which all notes of the chromatic spectrum were granted equal standing. The aforementioned Wozzeck is an atonal work. Berg subsequently adopted the 12-note technique – a system for writing atonal music – devised by his erstwhile master, Schoenberg. The Lyric Suite, a string quartet, is an example of an atonal work written according to this system. Another 12-note work is the Violin Concerto, a profoundly moving piece of music dedicated to the memory of Manon Gropius, daughter of Alma Mahler-Gropius and Walter Gropius, who died in April 1935 at the tragically young age of 18. In a further tragedy, Berg himself died (of septicaemia, following an insect bite) in December that same year. Little did he suspect that the Violin Concerto would be his own requiem.

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One of the leading Italian composers of the post-World War II period, Luciano Berio (1925-2003) was influenced to varying degrees by most of the major currents in 20th-century music including neoclassicism, serialism and electronic music. His most famous work is Sinfonia, for orchestra and amplified solo voices, from the late 1960s. Controversially, its middle movement includes substantial chunks from Mahler’s Symphony No 2 and bits and pieces from works by Debussy, Stravinsky, Brahms and others. Between 1958 and 2002 Berio composed more than a dozen highly virtuosic works for solo instruments, all of which have the generic title SequenzaSequenza II, for example, is for harp. Sequenza XIII is for accordion. Berio’s first wife was the American soprano Cathy Berberian, for whom he wrote a number of works including the Folk Songs and Sequenza III. One of his last projects was completing Act III of Puccini’s unfinished opera Turandot. Berio took as his point of departure sketches left by Puccini at the time of his death. The work was premièred at Las Palmas in 2002 and performed at the Salzburg Festival later that year.

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Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), like Robert Schumann, was both a composer and a music critic. Surprisingly for a composer, he had no competence as a pianist. His two instruments were flute and guitar, and he was only able to fumble his way through a few chords on the piano. It was the orchestra above all that interested him. Indeed, he not only wrote orchestral music, he wrote about it – one of his most significant publications is the orchestration manual, Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes. Berlioz also had a great love for vocal music. In addition to a large body of songs and choral works, he wrote for the stage, including the epic five-act opera Les Troyens (The Trojans). One of his boldest creations was Symphonie fantastique, a ‘programmatic symphony’ composed in 1830. Among the innovative features of the work is the use of a theme – an idée fixe – which appears in some form or another in all of the work’s five movements. The idée fixe is not so much a structural device as a programmatic one – it signifies a figure (‘the beloved’) who is the object of desire of the protagonist of the symphony, a young artist in love. Controversially, Berlioz prepared a written account of the symphony’s ‘story’ which was distributed to audience members for ease of listening.

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One of the great American musicians of the 20th century, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a composer, conductor and educator. His musical interests were varied: he composed the Broadway musical West Side Story, conducted Mahler’s symphonies to great acclaim and wrote the soundtrack to the Hollywood film On the Waterfront. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Lenny, as he was known colloquially, lived the American dream: he went to Harvard, was the first American to conduct at La Scala (Cherubini’s Medea with Maria Callas in the title role) and when he was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 40, was the youngest person to take up that position. Other orchestras with which he had long-standing relationships include the Vienna Philharmonic and Israel Philharmonic. Bernstein was a superb communicator. His lecture/demonstrations on music with the New York Philharmonic, many of which were filmed for television, are outstanding examples of their type. He not only inspired young listeners but adults too. Bernstein had a complicated private life. He married the Chilean-American actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn in 1951 and together they had two sons and a daughter. He also pursued sexual relationships with men. Indeed, he left his wife for a man in 1976 but returned to her a short while later. She died in 1978. In addition to being bisexual, Bernstein was sympathetic to left-wing causes. As a result, he was a prime candidate for surveillance by the FBI, which amassed a substantial file on him.

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In a cruel twist of fate, Georges Bizet (1838-1875) died without ever knowing that Carmen would become one of the great success stories of opera. It premièred at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875. Three months later Bizet was dead. A musically gifted child, Bizet was nine years of age when he commenced studies at the Paris Conservatoire where he excelled at piano, organ and composition. The Symphony in C dates from this early period. He won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857 and remained in Italy for three years. Upon his return to Paris he undertook whatever work he could find – composing, arranging, working as a rehearsal pianist and doing the rounds of theatres in search of commissions. He wrote a number of operas (including The Pearl Fishers) but none of them held the stage. He had a breakthrough in 1872 when his suite of incidental music from the play L’Arlésienne won widespread popularity and a succès de scandale with Carmen. Of course, Carmen went on to become a huge hit worldwide (it reached both Melbourne and Sydney before the end of the 1870s) and won the admiration of Brahms, Nietzsche, Mahler and countless others.

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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was one of the most celebrated composers of the nineteenth century. A native of Hamburg, he settled in Vienna in 1871. Like Beethoven – another famous German composer who came to call the Austrian capital home – Brahms laboured long and hard over musical composition. A strong advocate for the structural integrity of music, he devoted great care and attention to musical form, structure and logic. He held off writing a symphony until he felt fully comfortable writing for orchestra. Thus, his Symphony No 1 (1876) was preceded by two Serenades (1858 and 1859), the Piano Concerto No 1 (1859), A German Requiem (1868) and the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn (1873). Influential Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick was one of Brahms’s strongest supporters, finding in his music an antidote to what he believed were the deplorable ‘innovations’ of the other leading German composer of the time, Richard Wagner.

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When the curtain fell at the conclusion of the first performance of the opera Peter Grimes in 1945, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) had proven decisively what many had suspected – that he was unquestionably England’s finest living composer. Britten had enjoyed success prior to Grimes (notably with the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and Piano Concerto), but the tremendous ovation that greeted the opera not only confirmed his reputation, it raised his profile immeasurably and heralded the start of a long career as a composer of opera. Later successes in the theatre included Billy Budd, The Turn of the Screw and Death in Venice. As befitting an English composer, Britten was drawn to choral music and with the War Requiem (1962) he composed one of the great 20th-century works for choir and orchestra. But Britten was not only interested in large-scale music. He arranged British folksongs for voice and piano, wrote music for musical amateurs and was interested in music education (his most famous work in this respect is The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra). Britten was openly homosexual, which is notable given that sexual acts between consenting adult males were punishable by law for most of his lifetime. Britten’s life-long partner was the tenor Peter Pears, who sang the title role in Peter Grimes and many other works. Britten accepted a life peerage in June 1976 (he died later that year). Pears was knighted in 1978. Britten and Pears founded the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. Held every June, it continues to this day.

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Some composers, no matter how prolific, are known for just one work – Pachelbel and his Canon, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary. Max Bruch (1838-1920) is a case in point. Bruch happened to compose one of the best loved of all violin concertos – the Concerto No 1 in G minor – which has tended to obscure the fact that he also wrote a significant quantity of other music including three symphonies, three operas, chamber music, sacred music and songs. That said, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra and Kol nidrei for cello and orchestra are not entirely forgotten and have found a place in the concert repertory to a greater or lesser extent. A slightly younger contemporary of Johannes Brahms, Bruch lived through the period that saw Germany transformed from a patchwork of kingdoms, duchies and free city-states (indeed, he wrote the Violin Concerto No 1 while music director at the court of Koblenz in 1865-7) to a united country and, later still, a defeated nation at the end of World War I. Put another way, Mendelssohn and Chopin were alive in his childhood and Schoenberg and Stravinsky were on the rise in his old age. Born in Cologne, Bruch held conducting posts in Berlin, Liverpool and Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) and taught composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin where his pupils included Ottorino Respighi and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Cambridge in 1893.

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Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896)


Like Bartók and Kodaly in Hungary, and Vaughan Williams in England, Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957) was a collector of folk songs as well as a composer. A native of the Auvergne region in central France, Canteloube is best known for his five volumes of Songs of the Auvergne, arrangements of folk songs for soprano and orchestra that were published between 1923 and 1954. Canteloube also composed original music including the opera Le mas, which was staged at the Paris Opéra in 1929. During the Occupation he worked with the Vichy Government in promoting French folk music, poor judgement on his part although possibly understandable given his genuine commitment to the traditional music of France.

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Alexis Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 – 1894)


Like Jean-Baptiste Lully, Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) was an Italian-born composer who made his career in France. In fact, both composers hailed from the same city: Florence. Cherubini made his way to Paris via London and in 1786 was appointed music director of the Italian opera at the Théâtre de Monsieur. Over the next decade or so he consolidated his reputation to the point that when he met Beethoven in 1805, he was hailed by his German contemporary as Europe’s foremost composer of opera. Indeed, Beethoven’s opera Fidelio belongs, in part, to the tradition of ‘rescue opera’ popularised by Cherubini. (Cherubini attended the première of the first version of Beethoven’s opera.) Nowadays, Cherubini is best known for his French opera, Medée. His career had its ups and downs but, happily, finished on an upward swing. In 1822 he was appointed director of the Conservatoire and spent the last two decades of his life composing and teaching. His pupils included leading opera composers of the next generation: Auber, Halévy and Boieldieu.

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Poland’s most famous musical son, Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), left his homeland at the age of 20 and settled in Paris where he made a name for himself as one of the leading composers of his time. Renowned for his music for solo piano – etudes, mazurkas, nocturnes, ballades, impromptus and so on – Chopin was himself a pianist, although he preferred to perform in private salons rather than public concert halls. He made his living primarily from sheet music sales and piano teaching. Despite composing a large quantity of piano music, Chopin wrote relatively little for piano and orchestra, and almost all of it was composed before he left Poland. In addition to the two piano concertos (rather confusingly, the Piano Concerto No 1 was written after the Piano Concerto No 2), his music for piano and orchestra includes the Fantasy on Polish Airs and Grande polonaise brilliante. As these titles indicate, Chopin drew upon the music of his homeland from time to time. Indeed, he was able to bring to the attention of Parisians Polish dissatisfaction with the country’s tripartite division (Polish territory was divided between Russia, Prussia and the Austrian Empire) and lack of home rule. Chopin died at the appallingly young age of 39. He is buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery (not far from the grave of Jim Morrison of The Doors). Fittingly, his heart was taken to Poland where it resides in the church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.

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For a time, Eric Coates (1886-1957) had a dual career as a violist and composer, but ongoing neuritis put an end to his viola-playing activities in 1919. Composer of orchestral marches, fantasies and suites, Coates also wrote 160 songs, including “Love Among the Daffodils”, “Marry Me, Nancy, Do” and “I Pitch My Lonely Caravan at Night”. In addition to the “The Dambusters March”, which featured in the 1955 film, The Dam Busters, Coates’ music has appeared in more recent films, including Annie Hall, Vera Drake and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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Although he left behind a small body of music, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) was tremendously influential. He was renowned as a violinist and did much to establish violin practice and technique. Bologna was an early centre of his activities before he established himself in Rome, where he worked in many important households including those of Queen Christina of Sweden and Cardinal Ottoboni. There are five published collections of sonatas by Corelli – mostly trio sonatas but also violin sonatas – and a single collection of concertos. It is possible that he wrote a good deal more music which never made it into print. Corelli’s influence was felt far and wide, from Couperin in France, to Telemann in Germany to Handel in England. In his native Italy he was an important influence upon Vivaldi.

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Brisbane-born Brett Dean (born 1961) trained as a violist and was a permanent member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for more than 15 years. He began composing in 1988 and has become not only one of Australia’s leading composers but a composer of international stature having won the Grawemeyer Award (which has been dubbed the Nobel Prize of music) in 2009 for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing. He has received commissions from the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Proms, Lucerne Festival, Stockholm Philharmonic, Cologne Philharmonie, BBC Symphony and the Tasmanian, Sydney and Melbourne symphony orchestras. His opera Bliss, based on the novel by Peter Carey, was premièred in Sydney by Opera Australia in 2010 and subsequently staged at the Edinburgh Festival. In 2009 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra released Testament, a CD of music by Brett Dean conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, as part of its Australian Music Series on ABC Classics.

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French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was one of music’s great innovators. He opened his ears to sounds outside those of the prevailing musical culture of his time. As a result, his music echoes with unusual scales (such as the whole-tone and pentatonic), unorthodox chord progressions and voice-leading (he was fond of consecutive fifths), and sonorities borrowed from non-Western music (he relished the sound of a Javanese gamelan when he heard it at the Universal Exposition of 1889). He did not write a huge body of work but nevertheless made a significant contribution to the piano repertory (with two books of Préludes, among other works), orchestral music (including the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and La Mer) and opera (Pelléas et Mélisande). Debussy’s orchestral music typically calls for a large group of players but he tends not to use the sheer mass of instruments for the sake of volume but, rather, for the full range of colours that they able to provide (significantly, in light of Debussy’s enthusiasm for the gamelan, he tends to favour a largish percussion section). Debussy had a stormy private life. Four years into his marriage he left his wife for a married woman, Emma Bardac. His wife subsequently shot herself while standing in the Place de la Concorde but survived and the bullet remained lodged in her body for the remainder of her life. Debussy married Emma in 1908. Some years before she bore him a child, Claude-Emma, to whom Debussy dedicated his Children’s Corner suite.

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The reputation of composer Léo Delibes (1836-1891) rests upon three works above all: the ballets Coppélia and Sylvia, and the opera Lakmé. Like many French composers, Delibes’ early exposure to music was as an organist and church chorister. From there he made his way into theatre, where he worked as a composer (chiefly of operettas) and chorus director. The success of Coppélia in the early 1870s allowed him to devote himself full-time to composition. In 1876, the year in which he composed Sylvia, he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. At the time of his death he had completed, but not orchestrated, the opera Kassya, which is based upon a story by the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Mosach, whose name has given us the term “masochism”. Kassya was subsequently orchestrated by Jules Massenet.

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(1862 – 1934)


For many people the name Paul Dukas (1865-1935) will always be synonymous with the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ episode from Walt Disney’s Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse (as the eponymous apprentice) is overwhelmed by an army of brooms and buckets sloshing more and more water in the sorcerer’s den. It’s a catastrophe set to music and a classic sequence from a classic film. Premièred in 1897, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was an immediate success and has remained Dukas’ most famous work. Like every other aspiring French composer of his time, Dukas was drawn to writing music for the theatre. The opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue and ballet La Péri are his best known works for the stage. In addition to composing, Dukas was a music critic and an educator. He held positions at the Paris Conservatoire and the École Normale de Musique de Paris where his pupils included Olivier Messiaen, Maurice Duruflé and Jean Langlais.

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Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) probably did more than any other composer to put Czech music on the map in the 19thcentury. The son of a butcher and innkeeper, Dvořák rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most successful composers of the day and a celebrated figure on both sides of the Atlantic. A citizen of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, Dvořák, a Czech, had to overcome prejudice from the German-speaking élite in his quest to be taken seriously as a composer. He received the welcome support of Johannes Brahms who personally recommended Dvořák to Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock. Simrock made a tidy sum from Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, a collection of pieces which brought Dvořák to international attention virtually overnight. Dvořák developed a strong following in England – thanks, in large measure, to his choral works – and in the United States where, in the period 1892-95 he was Director and Professor of Composition at the National Conservatory of Music in New York. Dvořák’s ‘American period’ saw the composition of the New World symphony and American string quartet. In addition to nine symphonies, numerous symphonic poems, a truly great Cello Concerto and plentiful chamber works, Dvořák composed a number of operas, including Rusalka.

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Few contemporary Australian composers have contributed as strongly to the concerto repertory as Ross Edwards (born 1943). In addition to a Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto (Maninyas), Oboe Concerto (Bird Spirit Dreaming) and Clarinet Concerto, Edwards has composed a Guitar Concerto (Arafura Dances), Shakuhachi Concerto (The Heart of Night) and a Saxophone Concerto (Full Moon Dances). Additionally, he has composed symphonies, choral music, chamber music, ballets and a chamber opera, Christina’s World. A former student of Richard Meale and assistant to Peter Sculthorpe, Edwards has forged a distinctly personal style, one that draws upon the sounds and rhythms of the natural world and the diverse music of Australia and the Pacific region. White Ghost Dancing, a CD of Edwards’ music, forms part of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Composer Series on ABC Classics. In addition to the title work, White Ghost Dancing includes the string octet Veni creator spiritus (Come, O Creator Spirit), Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist (an important early work which displays the influence of Asian music) and the Concerto for Guitar and Strings (Arafura Dances), played by guitar virtuoso Karin Schaupp.

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Edward Elgar (1857-1934) rose from humble beginnings to become the most famous English composer of his generation. The son of a Worcester shopkeeper and piano tuner, Elgar was largely self-taught as a composer. Determined to make a career in music, he moved to London in 1889 but returned to the West Midlands in 1890 following a commission from the Worcester Festival (for which he wrote Froissart). He settled in Malvern, near Worcester, where he remained for the rest of his life. His most celebrated works include the Enigma Variations, Cello Concerto and Violin Concerto. He made a strong contribution to the English choral tradition with The Dream of GerontiusLand of Hope and Glory, adapted from his Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, is one of his most enduring works and holds its place as England’s unofficial national anthem. Elgar received a knighthood in 1904 and a baronetcy in 1931.

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Thierry Escaich (born 1965)


(1876 – 1946)


Famous for his setting of the Requiem, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) trained as a church musician and composed a significant quantity of sacred music before turning his attention to other genres. His orchestral music includes the suite Pelléas et Mélisande (which predates Debussy’s opera of the same name by a number of years) and the Fantasie for piano and orchestra. Among his best known works are two miniatures: the Pavane, which began life as a piano piece but is equally well known in other arrangements, and Sicilienne, originally for cello or violin and piano and, like the Pavane, well known in other arrangements. His chamber music includes cello sonatas, piano quartets and quintets, and a single string quartet. He also wrote a significant quantity of songs and solo piano music. Among his works for the stage is the opera Pénélope, which was premièred in Monte Carlo in 1913 and is dedicated to his former teacher Saint-Saëns. Fauré was director of the Paris Conservatoire from 1905 until 1920.

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Gerald Raphael Finzi (1901 – 1956)


A Liverpudlian by birth, composer, writer and broadcaster Andrew Ford (born 1957) has been based in Australia since 1983. His works include the music theatre piece Night and Dreams: the Death of Sigmund Freud, the opera Rembrandt’s Wife (which won the 2009 Green Room Award for ‘Best New Australian Opera’) and the song cycle Learning to Howl. He was composer-in-residence with the Australian Chamber Orchestra 1992-94 and, more recently, with the Australian National Academy of Music. He has received commissions from the Sydney Symphony, Sydney International Piano Competition and Victorian Opera. Additionally, his music has been performed by the New Juilliard Ensemble, Brodsky Quartet and London Sinfonietta. In 2010 and 2011 he was a tutor at the Symphony Australia/TSO Composers’ School. In 2012 the TSO and TSO Chorus gave the world première of his work Blitz. His books include Illegal HarmoniesIn Defence of Classical Music and The Sound of Pictures. Every week he reaches a wide audience through The Music Show, his Saturday morning program on ABC Radio National.

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Belgian-born composer, organist and teacher, César Franck (1822-1890) was a great admirer of J S Bach. To that end, much of Franck’s music is imbued with the contrapuntal rigour and chromaticism of the German Baroque master and illustrated, for example, in one of his best-known piano works, the Prélude, choral et fugue. Franck also kept abreast of current musical developments and was an early champion in France of the Lisztian symphonic poem. Les Djinns (1884), for orchestra and piano, is the most famous of Franck’s symphonic poems. Psyché, a multi-movement symphonic poem for orchestra and chorus, is also an important (and unjustly neglected) work. Franck wrote a considerable body of sacred music and his chamber music includes a piano quintet, string quartet and violin sonata. His pupils at the Paris Conservatoire included d’Indy, Vierne and Lekeu. Bizet and Debussy also sat in on some of his classes. Franck died in tragic circumstances: he was struck by a horse-drawn bus.

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Born in the Tuscan city of Lucca, Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) studied violin with Archangelo Corelli and composition with Alessandro Scarlatti. He held posts in various orchestras in his native Italy before moving to London in 1714 where he pursued a tripartite career as a performer, composer and teacher. Towards the end of his life he settled in Ireland, a country he knew well having stayed there for extended periods since the 1730s. He died in Dublin. Geminiani’s compositions are modelled closely on those of Corelli and include solo sonatas, trio sonatas and concertos. His treatise, The Art of Playing on the Violin, which was published in 1751, is one of the most important publications of its type.

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High-school dropout George Gershwin (1898-1937) entered the workforce at the age of 15 as a promoter for a music publishing firm in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. His job was to play the piano and sing the firm’s songs to prospective buyers. He thus got to know contemporary song styles inside out. Gershwin soon started to compose his own music and set his sights on Broadway. He got his first break in the theatre as a rehearsal pianist and quickly worked his way up the ladder, first of all by composing songs that were included in shows and then, with La La Lucille (1919), his first full-length musical. Al Jolson made Gershwin’s song ‘Swanee’ a hit and Fred and Adele Astaire starred in the 1924 show Lady be Good! In the same year Gershwin appeared as soloist in his recently completed work for piano and orchestra, Rhapsody in Blue. From this point on Gershwin wrote for traditional ‘classical’ genres (the Piano Concerto followed a few years later and the opera Porgy and Bess in 1934) as well as for Broadway. He met Maurice Ravel in Paris in 1928 and evidently asked him for composition lessons. Ravel supposedly replied, ‘Why be a second-rate Ravel when you are a first-rate Gershwin?’ Gershwin’s career came to an abrupt and unexpected end when he fell into a coma in July 1937. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour. An operation was performed but he never recovered.

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(1898 – 1937)


Among the works by German composer Detlev Glanert (born 1960) are the comic opera Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning, the chamber sonata Secret RoomMahler/Skizze for ensemble, and Four Preludes and Serious Songs for bass-baritone and orchestra. He has also written three symphonies. A former student of Hans Werner Henze, Glanert has held residencies in Mannheim, Sapporo and with Radio Orchestra Cologne. As of 2011 he has been ‘house composer’ with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 2010 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with soloist Teddy Tahu Rhodes performed Four Preludes and Serious Songs at the Adelaide Festival and subsequently recorded it on CD for ABC Classics.

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(1875 – 1956)


Like the great majority of 19th-century French composers, Charles Gounod (1818-1893) displayed little interest in the symphony. He was more strongly drawn to various kinds of vocal music: opera, choral music, and sacred and secular songs for voice and piano/organ. Far and away his greatest success was the opera Faust, an adaptation of the play by Goethe. Although it had a rather shaky start when it was premièred in Paris in 1859, Faust went on to become one of the most successful operas of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it was performed in Australia as early as 1864. Faust was the work which opened New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1883. Another work that brought Gounod’s name to prominence was the ‘Ave Maria’ – his adaptation of the Prelude No 1 from Das wohltemperierte Clavier by J S Bach. It remains a sentimental favourite.

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Iain Grandage (born 1970) has been Composer-in-Residence with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and has had his music performed by a variety of ensembles including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Brodsky String Quartet and the Australian Brass Quintet. In addition to writing for orchestral and chamber forces, he has been active as a composer for the theatre, including scores for Cloudstreet, The Secret River and When Times Stops. His opera The Riders, which is based upon Tim Winton’s celebrated novel, was staged to great acclaim by Victorian Opera in 2014. Active as a music director, he has worked with cabaret artist Meow Meow, collaborated with the ACO on The Reef, and conducted orchestras for Garrumul and Tim Minchin. His orchestral piece Suspended appears on the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Hush CD, The Magic Island.

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Maria Grenfell (born 1969) holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California, an MA from the Eastman School of Music and an MMus from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. She is Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Classical Music at the Conservatorium of Music at the University of Tasmania where she has been a lecturer since 1998. A represented composer at the Australian Music Centre and SouNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, her music has been commissioned, performed and recorded by symphony orchestras and chamber groups in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.


Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) is the composer of some of the most instantly recognisable of all orchestral works including the Piano Concerto, In the Hall of the Mountain King and Morning Mood. Ironically, it is not in the area of orchestral music that Grieg felt most comfortable but, rather, intimate genres such as music for solo piano (his ten volumes of Lyric Pieces are masterpieces) and solo songs with piano accompaniment. Like many composers of his generation, Grieg turned to the folk music of his homeland – in his case, Norway – in an attempt to fashion a distinctly national style. Grieg’s incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt further consolidated his credentials as a Norwegian composer. But Grieg was no stay-at-home provincial. He studied at the Leipzig conservatory, travelled widely, attended the inaugural Ring cycle at Bayreuth in 1876 (also Parsifal some years later) and formed friendships with fellow composers Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Delius. Melbourne-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961) came to know Grieg in his last years and remained a strong advocate of the Norwegian composer’s music throughout his life.

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Friedrich Gulda (16 May 1930 – 27 January 2000)


The man who gave us the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, ‘Zadok the Priest’ and the Water Music also wrote concertos, trio sonatas, the Music for the Royal Fireworks and more than two dozen operas. George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born a German (well, Saxon) and died an Englishman. A native of Halle, he travelled widely – Hamburg, Italy, Hanover, Düsseldorf, London – before settling in England towards the end of 1712. Handel’s travels in Italy were especially important as it was the ‘Italian style’ above all that he assimilated and perfected (even the German cities where he spent his career-building years were centres of Italian musical culture). Handel’s principal activity in London was as a composer of Italian opera. Opera was a private business in the English capital (unlike in many European centres where it was a court activity) and was underwritten by investors as well as by the composer himself. Success with the public was therefore crucial to its on-going viability. Among Handel’s many operas are Rinaldo (1711), Giulio Cesare in Egitto (1724), Alcina (1735) and Serse (1738). It was only when Londoners tired of Italian opera that Handel focused on oratorios in English. Consequently, most of his best-known oratorios date from the last decades of his life: Israel in Egypt (1739), Messiah (1742) and Judas Maccabaeus (1747). Handel’s eyesight failed in his later years and he was blind from about 1753. He was plagued by further illnesses over the next few years and died at the age of 74. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) toiled away for decades as a musician in the service of the aristocratic Esterházy family. He was required to compose music for everyday use in the Esterházy household, mostly instrumental works but also music for the chapel and theatre. The advantage of this to him as a composer was that it presented him with plenty of opportunities to hone his craft. He came to know the symphony and the string quartet inside out for the simple reason that he constantly had to churn out new works. Haydn was a crucial figure in establishing the Classical style and his innovations in form, phrasing and texture were wide-ranging and highly influential. His reputation spread beyond the German-speaking world and by the mid-1780s he had received commissions from elsewhere in Europe. In 1790 the Esterházy orchestra and opera company were disbanded which allowed Haydn the opportunity to travel to London at the invitation of impresario J P Salomon who commissioned 12 new symphonies from Haydn. These are known as the London symphonies (they are sometimes called the Salomon symphonies) and include the SurpriseClock and Drumroll. Haydn knew Mozart and Beethoven personally. He sometimes played quartets with the former and gave counterpointlessons to the latter.

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Haydn, JM

Johann Michael Haydn (1737 – 1806)


Jennifer Higdon (born 1962) is among the most lauded of contemporary American composers. She is also among the most performed. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto and a Grammy Award for her Percussion Concerto, Higdon has received commissions from America’s leading orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. Additionally, she has written for the Tokyo String Quartet and eighth blackbird. Her music has been recorded by Hilary Hahn with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, eighth blackbird with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (the title track on the CD Soliloquy). A New Yorker by birth, she currently holds the Rock Chair in Composition Studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

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Matthew John Hindson AM (born 12 September 1968

HK Gruber


(1874 – 1934)


Oscar-Arthur Honegger (the first name was never used) was born to Swiss parents in Le Havre, France. After studying for two years at the Zurich Conservatory he enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire from 1911 to 1918. He made his Paris compositional debut in 1916 and in 1918 wrote the ballet Le dit des jeux du monde, generally considered to be his first characteristic work. In the early 1920s, Honegger shot to fame with his “dramatic psalm” Le Roi David (King David), which is still in the choral repertoire. Between World War I and World War II, Honegger was very prolific. He composed the music for Abel Gance’s epic 1927 film, Napoléon. He composed nine ballets and three vocal stage works, amongst other works. One of those stage works, Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (1935), a “dramatic oratorio” is thought of as one of his finest works. In addition to his pieces written alone, he collaborated with Jacques Ibert on both an opera, L’Aiglon (1937), and an operetta.



Toshio Hosokawa (born 23 October 1955 in Hiroshima, Japan)


(1778 – 1837)


Many people are surprised to discover that Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) was first and foremost a 19th-century German composer and not, as they imagined, a 1960s-70s Anglo-Indian crooner. (Indeed, the later Engelbert Humperdinck, famous for hits such as ‘Release Me’ and ‘The Last Waltz’, was born Arnold George Dorsey; he took his name from the German composer.) Humperdinck got his first big break in his mid-20s when he made the acquaintance of Richard Wagner. He assisted Wagner on his final opera, Parsifal, by copying out the score by hand. Once the opera was in rehearsal in 1882 a technical glitch meant that there was not enough music for one of the scene changes. In exasperation, Wagner asked Humperdinck to compose music to fill the gap and the younger composer obliged. Humperdinck’s most famous work, the opera Hansel and Gretel, took shape in the early 1890s. Ironically, he did not set out to compose an opera – the work started out as a kind of domestic entertainment for the family of his sister, and it escalated from there. The finished work was declared a ‘masterpiece’ by Richard Strauss, conductor of the first performance in 1893. Hansel and Gretel proved to be tremendously successful. Indeed, none of Humperdinck’s subsequent works (the best known of which is the opera Königskinder) proved to be as successful as his first opera.

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Charles Edward Ives (1874 – 1954)


Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) should be the patron saint of late bloomers. He was aged 50 when he wrote the ground-breaking opera, Jenůfa, which didn’t bring him widespread success until it was premièred in Prague in 1916, by which time he was aged 62. The last 15 years of Janáček’s life brought one first-rate work after another: the operas Katya Kabanova (1921), The Cunning Little Vixen (1924) and The Makropulos Affair (1926); the orchestral works Taras Bulba and Sinfonietta; and the two string quartets. From about the age of 30 Janáček began to collect folksongs from his native Moravia. This was to have a profound effect upon his music with Moravian rhythms, accents and inflections seeping into his original compositions. If you’ve ever wondered where Janáček’s distinctive “edge” came from, this is probably the answer.

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Elena Kats-Chernin (born 1957) is one of Australia’s most successful composers. She studied music in Moscow, Sydney and Hanover, and her music featured in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Her concert suite Wild Swans was recorded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with conductor Ola Rudner and released in the TSO’s Australian Music Series on ABC Classics. ‘Eliza Aria’, one of the tracks from Wild Swans, reached the top spots in the iTunes classical charts having been used by UK banking giant Lloyds TSB in an extremely successful television commercial. In December 2009 the TSO with conductor Baldur Brönnimann and soloist Michael Collins gave the Australian première of Kats-Chernin’s Ornamental Air for basset clarinet and orchestra, jointly commissioned by the TSO and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia and Swedish Chamber Orchestra. In August 2011 the TSO gave the world première of Obsidian Light, a work commissioned by the TSO.

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Born in the northwest Tasmanian town of Smithton, Don Kay studied music at the University of Melbourne and subsequently took private lessons in London with expatriate Australian composer Malcolm Williamson. He returned to Tasmania in 1964 where he has remained ever since, lecturing at the Conservatorium of Music at the University of Tasmania. Tasmania has been a potent force in his music, as revealed in the titles of a number of his works, such as Hastings Bay (1986), Tasmania Symphony – The Legend of Moinee (1988) and The Edge of Remoteness (1996). Among his other works are six piano sonatas, a sonata for violin and piano, and a full-length opera, The Bushranger’s Lover (libretto by John Honey), which was given a concert performance in Hobart in November 2014. Don Kay was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1991 “for service to the arts particularly in the field of music composition” and was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 “for outstanding contribution to music, music education and composing in Tasmania”. In 2010 he was awarded the Clive Lord Memorial Medal by the Royal Society of Tasmania.

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Sydney-born Frederick Septimus Kelly (1881-1916) was a pianist, composer and oarsman, having rowed for Eton and Oxford, and won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in London in 1908. Upon completing studies at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read history, he studied piano, composition and counterpoint at the Conservatorium of Music in Frankfurt. Concerts in Sydney followed in 1911 and, upon his return to the United Kingdom, recitals and performances in London, including concerto appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra. Among his chamber music partners were the violinist Jelly d’Aranyi and cellist Pablo Casals. With the outbreak of war in 1914, Kelly fought in Belgium and at Gallipoli, and was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. En route to the Dardanelles in 1915, he sailed with Rupert Brooke and was a mourner at Brooke’s burial on the Greek island of Skyros. Elegy for Strings “In Memoriam Rupert Brooke” was composed at Gallipoli a short time later.

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He has composed orchestral music for the BBC, Symphony Australia, and several youth orchestras; chamber music for ensembles in Australia, Britain, Germany, the USA, Sweden and Russia; and a number of choral and vocal works.

Gordon Kerry studied composition with Barry Conyngham and has held fellowships from the Australia Council, Peggy Glanville-Hicks Trust and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He lives on a hill in north-eastern Victoria.


In his long life Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967) contributed to the fields of music composition, ethnomusicology and music education. Like his friend and fellow Hungarian Bela Bartók, Kodály developed a strong interest in the folk music traditions of Eastern Europe, an interest that is played out in his original compositions. Like Bartók, he held an academic post at the Budapest Academy of Music and the two men jointly edited a number of folk music collections. Among Kodály’s best known works are the opera Háry Janós, the Dances of Galanta and the Psalmus hungaricus. A passionate music educator, Kodály wrote a vast quantity of pedagogical music which still holds a key place in music education curricula today.

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In his long life Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967) contributed to the fields of music composition, ethnomusicology and music education. Like his friend and fellow Hungarian Bela Bartók, Kodály developed a strong interest in the folk music traditions of Eastern Europe, an interest that is played out in his original compositions. Like Bartók, he held an academic post at the Budapest Academy of Music and the two men jointly edited a number of folk music collections. Among Kodály’s best known works are the opera Háry Janós, the Dances of Galanta and the Psalmus hungaricus, the last named was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Budapest’s unification as a single city. A passionate music educator, Kodály wrote a vast quantity of pedagogical music which still holds a key place in music education curricula today.


Graeme Koehne (born 1956) is Professor of Composition at the University of Adelaide. His many orchestral works includeRainforestUnchained MelodyPowerhouse and Elevator Music (for oboe and orchestra). His dance scores include The Selfish GiantNearly Beloved (both for the Sydney Dance Company) and 1914 (for The Australian Ballet). Tivoli was commissioned by the Sydney Dance Company for the Centenary of Federation in 2001. Other theatrical works include the chamber opera Love Burns and a mini operetta, The Ringtone Cycle. Koehne was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 ‘For service to the community, particularly through composing for orchestra, ballet and opera.’ In 2004 he received the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award from the University of Melbourne. In 2008 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra released Tivoli Dances, an all-Koehne CD in its Australian Composer Series on ABC Classics.

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Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) composed some of the finest Hollywood film scores of the 1930s and 40s, including The Adventures of Robin Hood and Anthony Adverse (he won Oscars for both) and Kings Row. But before Hollywood, Korngold was a young composer of distinction in his native Austria. Indeed, he was aged only 11 when he composed the music for the ballet Der Schneemann (The Snow Man) which was performed at the Vienna Court Opera in 1910 (it was orchestrated by his teacher, Alexander Zemlinsky). His other works for the stage include the opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City), a weird and wonderful work about grief, obsession and dreams. Korngold was lured to the United States by celebrated Austrian director Max Reinhardt for his 1934 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Korngold, who was Jewish, remained in America – a wise move given the Anschluss in 1938 and the anti-Semitic pogroms which followed. Among Korngold’s music for the concert hall is the Violin Concerto, which was premièred by Jascha Heifetz in 1947. A lush and tuneful work, it makes use of themes from some of Korngold’s film scores.

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Edouard Lalo (1823-1892) is one of those French composers whom many assume to be Spanish on account of his most popular work, the Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra. His other works include a Fantaisie norvégienne and Concerto russe, yet it seems that he has never been taken for a Norwegian or Russian. Despite these and other works for orchestra (including a Cello Concerto), Lalo felt that his true métier was as an opera composer and spent years working on Le roi d’Ys, an opera based upon the Breton legend of the drowned city of Ys (Debussy’s piano piece “The Submerged Cathedral” draws from the same myth). Lalo had a battle getting the work performed. Although finished in 1875 (and revised in 1886), Le roi d’Ys did not reach the stage until 1888 when it was mounted, very successfully, by the Opera-Comique. Popular for the next few decades, it has since fallen into obscurity but it revived as a curiosity from time to time.

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Julian Langdon’s music has been performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria. In addition to writing for orchestra, he has composed for short films, documentary films, animated films, television productions, video games and commercials. He was a student at the TSO Composers’ School in 2007. In November 2012 the TSO will perform The Moonlight Jewel, commissioned for the TSO and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra by Joy Selby Smith, TSO Principal Trumpet Chair Sponsor.

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William Lawes (1602 – 1645)


A graduate of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, James Ledger (born 1966) has been composer-in-residence with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and at the Australian National Academy of Music, and held residencies with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has performed Indian Pacific, the work which first brought him to national attention in 1996, and Crossing the Ditch, among other works. Neon, which was commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, received its world première season in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart in 2010. Golden Years won Orchestra Work of the Year at the 2014 Art Music Awards, presented by APRA and the Australian Music Centre. Chronicles won in the same category in 2011. James Ledger is currently lecturer in composition at the University of Western Australia.

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The Merry Widow (original title: Die lustige Witwe) was the work that brought Franz Lehár (1870-1948) to international attention. Premièred in Vienna in 1905, it soon went on to conquer the stages of the world. Up to that point Lehár had eked out an existence as a military bandmaster and enjoyed only moderate success as a composer of operetta. But all that changed with The Merry Widow. His subsequent works include Der Graf von Luxemburg (The Count of Luxembourg), Zigeunerliebe (Gypsy Love) and Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles). In the 1920s and 30s Lehár found a strong advocate in tenor Richard Tauber, who further popularised his music not only in Austria and Germany, but also in the English-speaking world.

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Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) is probably best known for his opera Le Grande Macabre (1977) which received its Australian première at the 2010 Adelaide Festival. That said, millions have heard excerpts from his orchestral work Atmosphères (1961) and the Requiem (1965) thanks to their use in Stanley Kubrick’s landmark film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The dense clusters of micropolyphony heard in these excerpts typify much of Ligeti’s music of the 1950s and 1960s. Ligeti crossed the Iron Curtain in 1956 (hidden in a mail train) to take advantage of the freer cultural policies of the West, settling first in Vienna and later in Hamburg. His career reached a high point with the première of Le Grande Macabre in Stockholm in 1978. Works from the last decades of his life include concertos for cello, piano and horn and a large series of Études for solo piano, considered to be among the most dazzling piano music of the second half of the 20thcentury.

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Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was one of the most famous concert pianists of his time. Indeed, he did much to popularise the piano and played a key role in inventing the piano recital. Having made his career as a pianist, Liszt retired early from the concert stage and became a composer of orchestral music and a conductor. He was an early advocate for the music of Richard Wagner and conducted the première of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin in 1850. Liszt’s daughter Cosima married Wagner (who was 36 years her senior). Interestingly, for someone who scandalised Paris society in 1835 when he eloped with a married woman – Marie d’Agoult, the mother of his three children – Liszt later took religious orders and was known as ‘Abbé Liszt’ for the last two decades of his life. He was innovative as a performer and innovative as a composer. ‘If one person can be credited as being the fountainhead of modern music’, writes pianist Stephen Hough, ‘it is Franz Liszt.’

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The career of Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) was contingent to a significant degree upon the political situation in his country. After preliminary studies in piano and composition he was prevented from pursing further study in Paris on account of World War II. But the end of the war did not improve his situation greatly. Indeed, he found that his Symphony No 1 was ‘unacceptable’ in communist Poland. A thaw in the political climate in the mid-1950s brought some relief. It gave him the freedom, for example, to reveal some of the musical innovations that he had been working on quietly behind the scenes (including 12-note pitch organisation and chance procedures) and he was even allowed to travel to the United Kingdom and the USA. Commissions from front-rank performers and organisations followed. Peter Pears commissioned the Paroles tissées (1965), the Cello Concerto (1970) was written for Mstislav Rostropovich and the Symphony No 3 (1983) was written for the Chicago Symphony. At the time of his death he was working on a violin concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom he had already composed Chain II for violin and orchestra.

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A minor composer of Victorian and Edwardian Britain, Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916) had considerable success with his opera, Jeanie Deans (1894), which is based upon a much loved character invented by Sir Walter Scott. Scottish influences are found in other works by MacCunn, including the concert overture, The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, and cantata, The Lady of the Last Minstrel. Although he was born in Scotland, MacCunn spent all of his adult life in London, where he worked as a composer, conductor and teacher (his teaching positions included stints at the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music). As a conductor, MacCunn helped to promote the music of Richard Wagner in Britain, conducting the first English-language performances by the Carl Rosa Company of Tristan and Isolde and Siegfried. Not surprisingly, the influence of Wagner is heard in MacCunn’s music, along with Weber, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

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Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was far better known in his lifetime as a conductor than as a composer. Coming from a small town in what is now the Czech Republic, Mahler went on to become director of the Royal Hungarian Opera in Budapest, chief conductor of the Hamburg State Theatre and in 1897, at the age of 37, director of the Vienna Court Opera, one of the most prestigious conducting positions in Europe. After ten years in Vienna, Mahler moved to New York to become director of the Metropolitan Opera and subsequently director of the New York Philharmonic. In July 1907, shortly before leaving for America, one of his two daughters died and, soon thereafter, Mahler was diagnosed with a degenerative heart condition, the illness that would lead to his death in May 1911. From the early 1890s onwards, Mahler followed a routine of composing in the summer – usually in a picturesque outdoor retreat – and conducting and orchestrating in the winter. Among Mahler’s works are ten large-scale symphonic works. These consist of nine numbered symphonies and Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). There is also an unfinished Symphony No 10. Mahler expanded the bounds of the symphony – both in terms of overall length and forces involved – and used it as a vehicle for exploring as far as possible the joys, sorrows, mysteries, conflicts and contradictions of human existence.

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Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet (1842 – 1912)


Richard Meale (1932-2009) was among the first Australian composers to embrace modernist trends in music. He made a name for himself with a number of works in the 1960s – among them Homage to García Lorca and Very High Kings – and furthered his modernist credentials with works such as Coruscations and Incredible Floridas (both 1971). Non-Western music, notably the music of Japan, also influenced his early works. Towards the end of the 1970s Meale’s music took on a simpler, less confrontational style. Works of this period include Viridian (1979), the Second String Quartet (1980) and the opera Voss (1986). The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s CD Cantilena Pacifica provides an overview of Meale’s music from the 1960s to the 1990s.

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Melody Eötvös

Melody Eötvös studied composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University, where her tutors included Stephen Leek and Gerardo Dirié. She holds a Master of Music from the Royal Academy of Music in London and a Doctor of Music from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music at Bloomington in the USA. In 2008 and 2009, she attended the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Composers’ School. In 2010, she was selected for the National Composers Forum in Adelaide, which included the première of her first string quartet, “Olber’s Dance in the Dark”, by the Australian String Quartet, a later version of which won the Kuttner String Quartet Prize in the USA. Other awards and prizes include the APRA Professional Development Classical Award, 3MBS National Composers Award, Soundstream National Composer Award, Gallipoli Songs Competition, Virginia B Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commission and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra International Composition Competition. She has participated in festivals and workshops worldwide including a collaboration with Musica Viva/The Red Room/Claire Edwardes, the American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings in New York, and the Aspen Music Festival and School. She is currently Adjunct Lecturer in Music in General Studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.


Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) displayed extraordinary talent from a young age. As a boy he played the piano, organ, and violin and joined the choir of the Berlin Singakademie. By the age of 12 he had composed a Singspiel, Die Soldatenliebschaft, and shortly thereafter wrote further works for the stage along with string symphonies, choral music and chamber music. His paternal grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, a philosopher of the German Enlightenment who argued for religious tolerance and advocated the assimilation of Germany’s Jewish population into the culture at large. Mendelssohn’s father, Abraham, converted to the Lutheran faith and had his children baptised. The Mendelssohns cultivated one of the most illustrious salons in Berlin. In addition to composing, Mendelssohn was active as a conductor and was a key figure in the 19th-century ‘Bach revival’. Mendelssohn enjoyed a devoted following in England thanks, in no small measure, to his large-scale works for chorus and orchestra including the oratorios St Paul (1836) and Elijah (1846). He died of a stroke a few months short of his 39th birthday. Among his most famous works are the Scottish and Italiansymphonies, the Violin Concerto and the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Richard Mills (born 1949) is a well-known Australian composer and conductor. In 2009 he conducted the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in the première of his Passion According to St Mark. Incoming Artistic Director of Victorian Opera, he is the former Director of the TSO’s Australian Music Program and is the conductor on many of the TSO’s recordings in the Australian Music Series (released on ABC Classics) including Concertos for Strings (Richard Mills), Quamby (Peter Sculthorpe) and Etruscan Concerto (Peggy Glanville-Hicks). He has received Helpmann Awards for his work as a composer (Batavia) and conductor (Tristan und Isolde and The Love of the Nightingale). Other awards include the Sir Bernard Heinze Award, Don Banks Fellowship and the Ian Potter Foundation Award for Established Composers. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1999.

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In his short life Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) made an astonishing contribution to the world of music. The composer of the finest buffa operas of the 18th century (including The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni), Mozart also brought German opera to new heights with The Magic Flute and contributed substantially to other genres including the symphony, string quartet and piano concerto. His Clarinet Concerto is the best loved of all concertos for that instrument and his sacred music includes motets, Masses and a Requiem. Supremely gifted from a young age, Mozart toured Europe as a child prodigy. As an adult, however, he never found a position equal to his talents and, in frustration, quitted his job as a salaried musician in Salzburg and embarked upon a freelance career in Vienna. At the mercy of the market and subject to the vagaries of local taste, he had good years in Vienna but lean ones too. His career took a turn for the better in 1791 with many commissions in the offing. Tragically, he died in December of that year after a short illness. Contrary to popular belief, he was not interred in a pauper’s grave but was buried in a common individual grave as per Viennese funeral customs at the time.

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Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was one of music’s great independent thinkers. He had little time for rules, regulations and conventions. Although he made a formal study of music composition, he was more interested in experimenting as he went along instead of adhering to a given set of laws. Interestingly enough, when we hear a piece of orchestral music by Mussorgsky, chances are we are hearing a work that was orchestrated by someone else. Pictures at an Exhibition, which is probably his most famous work, is almost always heard in the version orchestrated by Ravel (Mussorgsky actually wrote it for solo piano). Similarly, Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov is best known in the revised and orchestrated version by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Shostakovich also revised it). Mussorgsky was a member of a group of Russian composers known as ‘The Mighty Handful’ (also known as ‘The Five’), a group which was committed to cultivating a distinctly ‘Russian’ sound (Rimsky-Korsakov was another member). Mussorgsky was born a nobleman but lost most of his property (and therefore income) following the emancipation of the serfs in the early 1860s. To his credit, he was not resentful of this progressive social reform; on the contrary, his politics were decidedly left-leaning. Mussorgsky dealt with alcohol dependency for much of his life and died from the effects of chronic alcoholism.

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Carl August Nielsen (9 June 1865 – 3 October 1931) was a Danish musician, conductor and violinist, widely recognized as his country’s most prominent composer. He initially played in a military band before attending the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 1884 until December 1886. He premiered his Op. 1, Suite for Strings, in 1888, at the age of 23. The following year, Nielsen began a 16-year stint as a second violinist in the Royal Danish Orchestra under the conductor Johan Svendsen. In 1916, he took a post teaching at the Royal Academy and continued to work there until his death.

Nielsen is especially noted for his six symphonies, his Wind Quintet and his concertos for violin, flute and clarinet. In Denmark, his opera Maskarade and many of his songs have become an integral part of the national heritage. His early music was inspired by composers such as Brahms and Grieg, but he soon developed his own style, first experimenting with progressive tonality and later diverging even more radically from the standards of composition still common at the time. Nielsen’s sixth and final symphony, Sinfonia semplice, was written in 1924–25.


Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai (9 June 1810 – 11 May 1849)


Nowadays, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) is known for a single work, the Canon in D (usually known simply as the “Pachelbel Canon”), which has been recorded countless times and is a staple of buskers and wedding musicians everywhere. Born in Nuremberg, Pachelbel travelled widely in German-speaking lands – he held positions in Vienna, Eisenach, Erfurt, Stuttgart and Gotha – before returning to Nuremberg for the last two decades of his life. An organist and composer, Pachelbel wrote a large quantity of sacred music (most of it for the Lutheran confession), as well as non-liturgical organ works and keyboard suites. As for the celebrated Canon in D, when and where and why it was written remain a mystery. But there is no mystery is to how it became famous over the past half century. This can be attributed to the recording industry and the dissemination of music on radio, LP/CD and in film. It all started with a 1968 recording by the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra. The rest, as they say, is history.

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With a wife called Maude and children called Dorothea and Gwendolyn, Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) was every inch a Victorian. To please his family he embarked upon a career in banking but abandoned it once he felt confident enough to earn a living from music. His earliest compositions were chamber works – sonatas, trios, quartets and the like. Orchestral works followed, including the concert overture Guillem de Cabestanh in 1878, in which we can hear the influence of a composer Parry revered, Wagner. In 1883 Parry was appointed Professor of Musical History at the newly founded Royal College of Music in London. Honorary doctorates from Cambridge and Oxford followed. Success as an opera composer failed to eventuate but he found his métier as a composer of choral music – Victorian England being a golden period for massed choirs – with oratorios, odes and other choral works, both secular and sacred, proving highly successful. Fittingly, his best known work today is the choral song “Jerusalem”, a setting of William Blake’s short poem, “And Did those Feet in Ancient Time”. “Jerusalem” is most frequently heard in the version orchestrated by Elgar.

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Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (born 1935) has forged one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music. He has long held an interest in plainchant and the music of J S Bach, influences which are played out in his own compositions in a number of ways including a preference for austere and hypnotic rhythmic and melodic lines (the plainchant influence), and polyphonic textures and sacred genres (the Bach influence). His music entered a new and idiosyncratic phase in the mid-1970s with the unveiling of his ‘tintinnabuli technique’ (his term), a system of pitch organisation whereby a single melodic line hovering around a central pitch is ornamented by a second part which sounds notes from the tonic triad. In the words of Alex Ross, ‘He [Pärt] is a composer who speaks in hauntingly clear, familiar tones, yet he does not duplicate the music of the past.’ Pärt’s best known works include Cantus in memoriam Benjamin BrittenTabula Rasa and St John Passion. He has composed a significant quantity of sacred choral music including works which set Latin, Russian Orthodox and Church Slavonic texts. He left Estonia for Western Europe in 1980, living briefly in Vienna before settling in Berlin. He now lives in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Have you ever bought a box of aspirin in France and noticed the name ‘Rhône-Poulenc’ on the packaging? Poulenc pharmaceuticals was founded by Étienne Poulenc, grandfather of composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). As a young man Francis Poulenc mixed with the smart set in Paris, including Apollinaire, Cocteau, Gide, Stravinsky and Diaghilev. Together with the composers Milhaud, Auric, Honegger, Tailleferre and Durey, he was a member of the group known as Les Six (a group which didn’t have a manifesto, as such, but which maintained a generally anti-Romantic bias). His works include the ballet Les biches (commissioned by Diaghilev for the Ballets russes), the opera Les mamelles de Tirésias (adapted from a play by Apollinaire), an Organ Concerto and many songs and solo piano works. In the 1950s he received a commission from La Scala, Milan, for Dialogues des Carmélites, an opera set in a community of nuns in revolutionary France. It was subsequently taken up by other major houses worldwide. The work points to Poulenc’s devout Catholicism. At the same time, he had a love for and interest in the witty and subversive. Indeed, some would argue that his sacred music is altogether too frivolous. Whatever the verdict on that score, his varied output is among the most interesting of any 20th-century composer. Like Diaghilev, Gide and Cocteau, Poulenc was homosexual. That said, he fathered a child who was born in 1946.

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Florence Beatrice Price (April 9, 1887 – June 3, 1953) was an African-American classical composer. She was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra. Price wrote extended works for orchestra, chamber works, art songs, works for violin, organ anthems, piano pieces, spiritual arrangements, four symphonies, three piano concertos, and a violin concerto. Some of her more popular works are: “Three Little Negro Dances,” “Songs to a Dark Virgin”, “My Soul’s Been Anchored in de Lord” for piano or orchestra and voice, and “Moon Bridge”. Price was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1940 for her work as a composer.



Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a precocious and gifted child. Born in Ukraine, he began piano lessons at the age of four and wrote his first opera before the age of ten. He studied piano and composition at the St Petersburg Conservatory and had the audacity to perform as his graduation concerto not a standard work from the repertory, but his newly written Piano Concerto No 1. Prokofiev spent many years overseas including lengthy periods in the United States and France. Works from this period include the Piano Concerto No 3 (premièred in Chicago in 1921), the opera The Love for Three Oranges (premièred in Chicago in 1923) and the Violin Concerto No 2 (premièred in Madrid in 1935). He returned to the Soviet Union in 1936, precisely the time when the political climate took a turn for the worse with curbs on artistic freedoms. Works from this period include Peter and the Wolf, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, the opera War and Peace, music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film Alexander Nevsky and the Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution. He had the misfortune to die on the same day as Joseph Stalin (5 March 1953). Stalin’s death stole the headlines while Prokofiev’s death was treated as a minor news item.

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Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was the leading composer of Italian opera in the generation after Verdi. He is responsible for some of the most popular operas of all time including La bohèmeToscaMadama Butterfly and Turandot. Puccini knew how to write and develop a well-crafted melody and he utilised harmony and orchestration to highly individual and colouristic effects. An avid smoker, he died of throat cancer. Interestingly, the statue erected outside his birth house in Lucca shows the composer holding a cigarette. The statue raised in his honour outside the house where he spent much of his life (and where he is buried) in Torre del Lago Puccini goes one further: he actually has a cigarette in his mouth.

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In his short life Henry Purcell (1659-1695) composed a not insignificant body of music, including the opera Dido and Aeneas, a landmark in the history of opera in English. His other stage works include King Arthur, The Fairy Queen and The Indian Queen. Purcell was attached to the Chapel Royal from a young age, first as a boy soprano and later as an organist. Not surprisingly, he composed a good deal of sacred music, including many anthems. He also wrote a large quantity of secular songs. In 1694 he composed music to be played at the funeral service for Queen Mary. The following year it was played at his own funeral.

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As both a concert pianist and a fully-fledged composer, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was one of the last of a now extinct breed: the composer-performer. In this respect he was part of a tradition dating back to at least the time of Franz Liszt (and let’s not forget that, prior to Liszt, Mozart and Beethoven were pianist-composers). Born in Tsarist Russia, Rachmaninov fled his homeland in the aftermath of the Revolution and based himself in the United States in the early 1920s. That said, he travelled overseas frequently (from the early 1930s he had a house in Switzerland) and did not become a US citizen until shortly before his death. His reputation was assured with the success of the Piano Concerto No 2 in 1901 and the work remains to this day one of the most famous (and beloved) works for piano and orchestra. Close behind is the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini from 1934. As a pianist Rachmaninov was blessed with an exceptionally large hand span and a phenomenal technique. By common consent he is held to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. His recordings remain in circulation. In addition to solo piano works and works for piano and orchestra, Rachmaninov composed symphonies, operas, choral music and songs (the Vocalise being the most famous). The choral symphony The Bells (1913) and the Symphonic Dances (1940) are among his finest orchestral works.

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Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 –  1764)


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was the leading French composer of his generation. Although his output is small, he made significant contributions to ballet (Daphnis et Chloé), the piano concerto (Piano Concerto in G and Concerto for the Left Hand), music for solo piano (Miroirs and Gaspard de la nuit), solo violin (Tzigane) and chamber music (String Quartet and Piano Trio). He had a special gift for orchestration, as revealed in Bolero and many works which were originally written for piano and later orchestrated (such as Pavane pour une infante défunte and Le tombeau de Couperin). A man of slight build and small stature, Ravel was rejected from military service in World War I but was allowed to enlist as an army driver and carried out duties near Verdun. He was offered the Légion d’Honneur in 1920 but refused.

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Jean-Fery Rebel (1666-1747) studied violin and composition with French baroque master Jean-Baptiste Lully. In 1705 he joined the prestigious 24 Violons du Roi, Louis XIV’s string orchestra, which is often said to be the world’s first orchestra, and later rose in the ranks to become batteur de mesure (i.e. timekeeper or, in modern parlance, conductor). Rebel was among the first French composers to adopt the Italian sonata model, composing trio sonatas and solo violin sonatas. He also wrote a single opera, Ulysse. Dance music was Rebel’s forte. His most notable work being the suite of dances Les caractères de la danse.

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Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is chiefly known for his Ancient Airs and Dances and two suites of tone poems, The Pines of Rome and The Fountains of Rome. Less well known are his operas, of which he wrote nearly a dozen, and other works for the stage, including the ballet La boutique fantasque. He took lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, attended Max Bruch’s composition class in Berlin and was himself appointed professor of composition at Rome’s Accademia di S Cecilia in 1913. It is in the area of orchestration that Respighi is generally thought to have displayed his strongest suit.

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Richard Meale

Richard Meale (1932-2009) was among the first Australian composers to embrace modernist trends in music. He made a name for himself with a number of works in the 1960s – among them Homage to García Lorca and Very High Kings – and furthered his modernist credentials with works such as Coruscations and Incredible Floridas (both 1971). Non-Western music, notably the music of Japan, also influenced his early works. Towards the end of the 1970s Meale’s music took on a simpler, less confrontational style. Works of this period include Viridian (1979), the Second String Quartet (1980) and the opera Voss (1986). The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s CD Cantilena Pacifica provides an overview of Meale’s music from the 1960s to the 1990s.


Franz (Czech: František) Xaver Richter (1709 – 1789)


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was largely self-taught as a composer. He joined the navy, went to sea and at the age of 27 was appointed Professor of Practical Composition and Instrumentation at the St Petersburg Conservatory. ‘Having undeservedly become a Conservatory professor, I soon became one of its best students,’ he later wrote of himself. His orchestral works Sadko and Antar were written while he was still a naval lieutenant. He was a member of an informal group of Russian composers known as ‘The Five’ (the others were Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky and Borodin). Some key works by Mussorgsky and Borodin (including Night on Bald Mountain and Prince Igor) are well known through editions prepared (and often orchestrated) by Rimsky-Korsakov. Influential as a teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov’s pupils included Glazunov and Stravinsky. His best known orchestral works are Scheherazade and Capriccio espagnol and his many operas include The Snow Maiden and The Golden Cockerel. His music made a strong impression in Western Europe when it was performed in Paris in 1907 (with Rimsky-Korsakov as conductor) as part of the first season of Serge Diaghilev’s ground-breaking Russian Concerts.

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It’s no accident that Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) had a dish named after him, Tournedos Rossini. Rossini, who was of considerable girth, loved to eat and loved to entertain. Indeed, having made his fortune young, thanks to the success of works such as TancrediL’italiana in Algeri and The Barber of Seville, he largely retired from composition before the age of 40 and lived the life of a wealthy man about town (the ‘town’ in question being Paris, for the most part). Easily the most important composer of opera in the first decades of the 19th century, Rossini was able to turn his hand to a whole range of genres, from opera seria (Semiramide) to opera buffa (The Barber of Seville) to tragédie lyrique (Le siège de Corinthe) to French Grand Opera (William Tell). One of his signature ‘tricks’ is the so-called ‘Rossini crescendo’, whereby a musical phrase is atomised and repeated over and over, gradually becoming more densely orchestrated with each repeat and, most importantly, louder and louder. It’s a simple device but a very effective one. The overture to The Barber of Seville contains several examples. As for Tournedos Rossini, it’s basically a heart attack on a plate: a filet mignon fried in butter, topped with foie gras (also briefly fried), garnished with black truffle and topped with Madeira demi-glace.

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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) composed a sizeable quantity of music in the course of his rather long life; from songs for solo voice and piano (“Mandoline” being particularly celebrated) to symphonies (the Symphony No 3, “Organ”, is the best known) to operas (Samson et Dalila, among others). He also composed solo piano music, chamber music, concertos, ballets, incidental music, choral music (sacred and secular) and orchestral works apart from symphonies, such as the famous Danse macabre. In other words, he was across all genres. It is ironic that the work that is probably his most famous – The Carnival of the Animals – is one that he went out of his way to conceal. Believing it a mere trifle, he forbade performances of it but for a single movement, “The Swan”.

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Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (1685 –1757)


The music of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) ought to be better known. It is thoughtful, dramatic, clever and frequently witty. Born in the Soviet Union, Schnittke commenced music studies in post-war Vienna – his family was domiciled in the Austrian capital at the time – and continued them in Moscow once the family returned to Russia. Like other Soviet composers, he was obliged to write ‘politically correct’ music if his career was to prosper (his oratorio Nagasaki received official condemnation in 1958). But Schnittke was no lackey of the state and wrote a large number of film scores while simultaneously developing a more personal, ‘unofficial’ idiom. He studied the scores of non-Soviet 20th-century composers and was thus aware of trends in Western music. Early influences include the music of Shostakovich, while later ones include Mahler, Bruckner, Berg and Nono. His own idiom is markedly polystylistic (indeed, he wrote an essay in 1971, ‘Polystylistic Tendencies in Modern Music’). Schnittke travelled abroad a few times and, once his reputation became known in the West, with greater regularity. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he moved to Germany, settling in Hamburg, where he died following a series of debilitating strokes.

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More than any other composer, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was crucial in pushing music in an atonal, modernist direction. In his role as a composition teacher Schoenberg influenced a number of other composers, notably Anton Webern and Alban Berg. This triumvirate is known as the Second Viennese School. It should be stressed, however, that Schoenberg developed into a modernist composer, he did not start out as one. His earliest works are essays in luscious and somewhat overripe late Romanticism, Verklärte Nacht being a particularly fine example. Schoenberg believed that the breach with tonality was a logical and necessary step given that late-Romantic tonality had become saturated by dissonance (he was thinking, for example, of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde). In obliterating the consonant/dissonant divide, he claimed to have ‘emancipated’ dissonance from its subservient role in tonal music. Active initially in Vienna and later in Berlin, Schoenberg, who was Jewish, lost his teaching post when the National Socialists came to power in 1933. Schoenberg settled in Los Angeles the following year. His most significant ‘discovery’ – something which he said would ‘guarantee the supremacy of German music for the next 200 years’ – was the invention in the 1920s of the 12-note technique, in which the notes of the chromatic scale are organised in a tone row, which then acts as the melodic and harmonic building block of the musical work.

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For a composer who died at such a young age, Franz Schubert (1797-1828), wrote a staggering amount of music including nine symphonies (not all of them complete), 21 piano sonatas, nearly 20 operas (not all of them complete) and approximately 600 songs. All up, his output amounts to approximately 1,000 works. What is extraordinary about Schubert’s works list is not just the sheer quantity of music but also the quality and, furthermore, the quality across genres. For example, his songs are among the finest works ever written for voice and piano (and the song cycleWinterreise is one of the great achievements in any genre), his late piano sonatas are likewise outstanding as are theUnfinished and Great symphonies and the Quintet in C. Schubert was a gifted tunesmith and a remarkable innovator in the area of harmony. But for all Schubert’s originality and innovativeness, he received little recognition during his lifetime (indeed, he did not get to hear one of his symphonies performed by an orchestra). He enjoyed the company of a close circle of friends in Vienna who would hold all-Schubert concerts (known as Schubertiads) in intimate domestic settings, but success in large-scale concert venues and in the theatre eluded him. He probably contracted syphilis in his mid-20s which is very likely the disease that took his life (or, if not the disease, the treatment of it which, at that time, involved doses of mercury).

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Andrew Schultz (born 1960) has composed orchestral works, chamber music and three operas (Black RiverGoing Into Shadows and The Children’s Bach). The Adelaide-born composer studied at the universities of Queensland, Pennsylvania and King’s College, University of London. He is currently Professor of Music and Head of the School of English, Media and Performing Arts at the University of New South Wales. In 1999 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Intervarsity Choir gave the world première of Schultz’s Southern Ocean (text by Margaret Scott), a work written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Intervarsity Choir. More recently the TSO has recorded Endling, the Violin Concerto (with soloist Jennifer Pike) and Once upon a time…, works which have been released on Andrew Schultz – Orchestral Works, a CD in the TSO’s Australian Composer Series on ABC Classics.

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Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was one of the most brilliant composers of the so-called ‘Romantic Generation’ – the generation of composers born in the first decade of the 19th century (in addition to Schumann, it includes Chopin, Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Bellini). Schumann’s imagination and inquiring mind led him to compose some of the most original music of his time. His songs and piano music are particularly outstanding but he also made and important contribution to chamber music and the symphony. Schumann even wrote an opera, the little-known Genoveva. In addition to composing, Schumann briefly pursued a parallel career as a music journalist and was founder of the New Journal for Music, a magazine which helped promote the careers of Chopin, Berlioz and the young Johannes Brahms. At the age of 25 Schumann fell in love with the pianist Clara Wieck, a woman nearly ten years his junior. They were married five years later and had a family of eight children, three of whom lived until the 1920s and 1930s. Schumann’s mental health was often precarious and after a suicide attempt in 1854 he was hospitalised. His mental and physical condition deteriorated further and he died two years later.

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For more than half a century Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014) was a leading figure in Australian music. The Launceston-born composer was included among the nation’s 100 Living National Treasures in a popular poll conducted in 1988 and named one of Australia’s 45 Icons in 1999. His name is familiar to concert-goers and to the average man in the street. Indeed, his arrangements of music by Tim Freedman of The Whitlams have brought him to a still wider audience. Among Sculthorpe’s most renowned orchestral works are the four-part Sun MusicEarth Cry (which includes obbligato didgeridu) and Kakadu. Other works include Port Essington for chamber orchestra, 18 string quartets and a Requiem for mixed chorus, didgeridu and orchestra. The composer’s use of didgeridu signals the influence that Indigenous Australian music and culture have played in his music. Other non-Western influences include the music of Bali and Japan. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has been a strong advocate for Sculthorpe’s music over the years. In 1963 the TSO under Thomas Matthews gave the première of The Fifth Continent with poet James McAuley as the speaker. In 1976 the TSO presented an all-Sculthorpe ‘Meet the Composer’ concert and in 1999 commemorated the composer’s 70th birthday with concerts in Launceston and Hobart. The TSO and TSO Chorus gave the Tasmanian première of the Requiem in 2005 and the TSO commemorated the composer’s 80th birthday in 2009 with performances in Hobart and Burnie of My Country Childhood. There are two Sculthorpe CDs in the TSO’s Australian Composer Series on ABC Classics, The Fifth Continent and Quamby.

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Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was the leading composer of the Soviet Union. A gifted pianist, he displayed an aptitude for composition from a young age and became one of the foremost symphonists of the 20th century. He also wrote concertos, chamber music, film music, operas and ballets. He was more or less forced into toning down his early complex and brittle idiom in the mid-1930s when his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was denounced as ‘muddle’ by the Communist Party newspaper Pravda. It is believed that Josef Stalin was the author of the attack. With works such The Sun Shines over Our Motherland to his credit, it is unclear whether Shostakovich embraced Soviet ideology or merely paid lip service to it. This debate has helped to make his music endlessly fascinating for many listeners.

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A conservatory-trained musician, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) embarked upon violin studies before finding his true métier as a composer. Although he was brought up in a Swedish-speaking household, Sibelius became deeply sympathetic to the Finnish nationalist cause, a fact reflected in works such as Karelia and Finlandia. More than any other figure he put Finland on the map, musically speaking. His violin concerto is one of the greatest works of its type and his seven symphonies – which date from 1899 to 1924 – hold an important place in the history of the 20th-century symphony. Sibelius struggled with depression and alcohol dependence for much of his life and experienced a very powerful creative crisis from the early 1930s. Retreating to his log villa at Järvenpää outside Helsinki, he wrote almost nothing in his last 25 years. Oddly enough, this was a time when he enjoyed considerable fame at home and abroad. We know that Sibelius laboured over his Eighth Symphony during this period but no trace of the work survives – he tossed the manuscript into a combustion stove in the mid-1940s and it went up in smoke.

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Film director Milos Forman tells a story from his childhood during the Nazi occupation of his country, Czechoslovakia. A silent film of an opera was screened in his home village. The audience sat quietly during the (silent) overture but then everyone spontaneously burst into song when the opening chorus began. This was a moment for Czechs to sing as one and declare their national identity during a dark period in their history. The opera was The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). Smetana would no doubt have been delighted to know that the words of the opening chorus were known by heart well over half a century after the opera was premièred. Smetana worked tirelessly to promote a Czech identity in music. It is all the more remarkable that he pursued this task without drawing upon folk music. Opera in Czech was a good place to start. All up, he composed eight complete operas. In the area of instrumental music he is best known for Má vlast (My Homeland), a cycle of symphonic poems on Czech themes. Smetana’s private life was marked by tragedy. Three of his four daughters died in infancy and ten years into their marriage, his wife died. He subsequently remarried but around the age of 50 suffered from the effects of syphilis. This led to total loss of hearing, insanity and death.

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(1750 – 1812)


Sydney-based composer Paul Stanhope (born 1969) won the prestigious Toru Takemitsu Composition Award in 2004 for his orchestral work Fantasia on a Theme by Vaughan Williams (performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 2010). Commissions from orchestras soon followed including one from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for Cloudforms. In 2010 he was Musica Viva’s featured composer, which brought his String Quartet No 2 and Agnus Dei – After the Fire to the attention of chamber music audiences throughout the country. In the same year he was awarded the Albert H Maggs Award from the University of Melbourne for his String Quartet No 1. The String Quartet No 2 was named Instrumental Work of the Year at the 2011 APRA/Australian Music Centre Awards and his unaccompanied choral work Deserts of Exilewas named Vocal/Choral Work of the Year. In addition to composing, Stanhope is active as a choral conductor and is director of the Sydney Chamber Choir. He teaches composition part-time at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and at MLC School.

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Strauss II, J

‘You’re the melody from a symphony by Strauss, / You’re a Bendel bonnet, / a Shakespeare sonnet, / you’re Mickey Mouse!’ The ‘Strauss’ in Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’ is most probably Johann Strauss II (1825-1899), even though he was a composer of waltzes and other popular works, and not symphonies. The fact is, Porter would have known that the name Strauss would have meant ‘classical music’ to his audience. Composer of ‘The Blue Danube’, ‘Tales from the Vienna Woods’, and the operetta Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss II trained as a banker before following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a conductor and composer. (His father, Johann Strauss I, is the composer of the ‘Radetzky March’.) It turned out to be a wise move, as he enjoyed a 50-year career in music and became known as the ‘Waltz King’. In addition to the works cited above, his many successes include ‘Wine, Women and Song!’, the ‘Tritsch-Tratsch Polka’ and the ‘Emperor Waltz’. Strauss’s music reached a different audience altogether when Stanley Kubrick used ‘The Blue Danube’ for one of the remarkable spaceship sequences in his trippy cult film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Johann Strauss II is no relation to the composer Richard Strauss.

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Strauss, R

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) grew up in a musical household. His father, Franz, who was a horn player in the Munich Court Orchestra, played in the premières of Wagner’s TristanMeistersingerRheingoldWalküre and Parsifal. That said, Franz Strauss disapproved strongly of Wagner’s music. His son, on the other hand, did not. Indeed, Richard Strauss embraced Wagner’s sound world in his symphonic poems (including Don JuanDeath and Transfiguration and Also sprach Zarathustra) and early operas (Salome and Elektra in particular) before cultivating a style and idiom that veered more in the direction of Mozart. For most of his life Strauss was both a composer and a conductor. Indeed, there is film footage of him conducting excerpts from his opera Der Rosenkavalier at the age of 85. He composed right to the end of his life too. His Four Last Songs, among the most famous of his works, were premièred posthumously in London in 1950 with conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and soprano Kirsten Flagstad. Other late works include the Oboe Concerto and Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings. In December 1999, Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, described Strauss as the ‘composer of the century.’

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Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) entered the music profession after commencing but never completing a law degree at St Petersburg University. He studied piano as a boy and later took composition lessons with esteemed composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov – a fact reflected in Stravinsky’s early works which demonstrate not only the influence of his teacher but also Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Debussy and Dukas. Stravinsky’s career breakthrough came with performances in Paris of a series of ballets for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1913). All three works created a sensation. In fact, Le sacre du printemps, with its pounding rhythms, biting harmonies and unconventional choreography (the work of renowned dancer Vaslav Nijinsky), did more than create a sensation, it provoked a riot at its première. Stravinsky’s music is generally said to have entered a ‘neoclassical’ phase around 1920. Works of this period include the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), Symphony of Psalms (1930) and the opera The Rake’s Progress (1951). After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Stravinsky remained in the West and took out French citizenship in 1934 and American citizenship in 1945. In the 1940s he lived not far from composer Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles but the two men were not close. However, following Schoenberg’s death in 1951 Stravinsky became interested in Schoenberg’s 12-note technique and composed a number of partially 12-note works including the Canticum sacrum (1955) and the ballet Agon (1957). Stravinsky visited Australia in 1961 at the invitation of the ABC and conducted concerts of his music in Sydney and Melbourne. He died in New York at the age of 88 and is buried on the island of San Michele in Venice.

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Franz von Suppé (1819-1895) was born Francesco de Suppe-Demelli. His early years were spent in Croatia (he was born in Split) after which he had a brief stint as a law student in Padua. While in Italy he met Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi. Following the death of his father in 1835, his mother whisked him away to her hometown of Vienna and it was there that his career in music took off. He wrote a vast quantity of music for the stage, mostly operettas. These include Light Cavalry,Flotte Bursche, and Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna. He also wrote parodies of famous operas, including Martl (a parody of Flotow’s Martha) and the Wagner parodies Tannenhäuser and Lohengelb. One of his orchestral works is a concert overture based upon Dalmatian folk songs, an affectionate tribute to the land of his birth.

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Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996) came of age in the period after World War II. His first exposure to Western music was from listening to radio broadcasts on the US military station. Almost at once he decided to become a composer. Debussy and Messiaen were early influences and, along with many composers in the 1950s, he became interested in electronic music. His gaze was fixed firmly on the West for the first two decades of his compositional career until, in the early-to-mid 1960s, he started to incorporate Japanese influences in his music, notably Japanese instruments such as the biwa (a Japanese lute) and shakuhachi (a Japanese flute). These two instruments are featured in his orchestral work November Steps, which was commissioned in 1967 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1985 he wrote the music for the film Ran, by renowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. By this time Takemitsu was in demand as a guest lecturer in prestigious universities throughout the world. In 1985 he was admitted to the American Institute of Arts and Letters and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Takemitsu is without question Japan’s leading 20th-century composer in the Western tradition.

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Tan Dun

Chinese-born American composer Tan Dun (born 1957) reached a world-wide audience with his score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won him an Academy Award in 2001. Although he is principally a composer in the Western tradition (or “traditions”, as he is interested in classical, jazz, rock and pop music), Tan also draws upon the musical traditions of his native China, including Chinese opera and folk music. The theme of “East meets West” is played out on a number of levels in his opera Marco Polo, which was premièred at the Bavarian State Opera in 1996 and staged the following year at New York City Opera. This theme is examined further in a series of works entitled Orchestral Theatre which, in addition to Western orchestral instruments, include Chinese instruments such as the xun, bianzhong and pipa. Tan is interested generally in unusual sound sources including basins filled with water (Water Passion after St Matthew and Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra) and instruments made out of paper (Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra). Tan’s career in China has been chequered. His music was blacklisted for a time in the early 1980s but it is now looked upon with favour. Indeed, he composed music in an official capacity for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

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Composer of operas (Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades), ballets (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker), symphonies and concertos, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was successful in every genre he turned his hand to. A well-travelled Russian, Tchaikovsky attended the first season of Carmen at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1875 (he had the highest admiration for Bizet’s opera) and, the following year, the first Ring cycle at Bayreuth. He conducted at the official opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891 and travelled to England in 1893 to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge. His stature inside Russia was immense and his music to this day remains a staple of the concert repertory everywhere. His death remains shrouded in mystery. It was long thought that he died from cholera after drinking contaminated water, but it is also possible that he was forced to take his own life to avoid a public scandal involving a sexual relationship he had with a young man of noble birth. In any case, his death at the age of 53 was horribly premature.

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Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767)



It might be said that Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks (born 1946) writes music with heart. Man’s inhumanity to man and man’s precarious balancing act with nature are themes which run throughout his music. Growing up behind the Iron Curtain and in a Soviet satellite country, Vasks experienced first-hand the soul-destroying conditions of the authoritarian state. In light of this, the struggle of the Latvian people is a cause which he holds dear. But in addition to nationalist impulses and Cold War experiences, Vasks is also driven by what he believes to be the spiritual impoverishment of contemporary society. As he put it: “Most people today no longer possess beliefs, love and ideals. The spiritual dimension has been lost. My intention is to provide food for the soul.” His works include Musica dolorosa, the violin concerto Distant Light and three symphonies.

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Vaughan Williams

Like Beethoven, Bruckner and Dvořák, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) belongs to the ‘ninth club’, the small coterie of 19th- and 20th-century composers who have clocked up nine symphonies. Indeed, Vaughan Williams composed five of his nine symphonies in the last 15 years of his life. Like Mahler, he was not averse to including voices in his symphonies – two of them, A Sea Symphony (Symphony No 1) and Sinfonia antarctica (Symphony No 7) include chorus and vocal soloist(s). But today Vaughan Williams is less remembered for his symphonies than for his single movement works for orchestra (such as The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis), the song ‘Linden Lea’ and song cycle On Wenlock Edge. As these titles indicate, he had a strong interest in English folk music and English music of the 16th century. Vaughan Williams studied briefly with Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel and was himself a notable teacher, holding the position of professor of composition at London’s Royal College of Music between 1919 and 1939.

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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was without question the greatest Italian composer of the 19th century. The composer ofNabuccoRigolettoIl trovatoreLa traviataAïda and many other operas, Verdi had a great love for the theatre and a flair for drama. Constantly innovating, Verdi pushed opera in ever more insightful directions. His two final works, Otello and Falstaff, mark the high point of 19th-century Italian serious and comic opera respectively. Verdi was a keen supporter of the push for a united Italy and the plots of his operas were sometimes thought to be allegories for Italian political independence. Between 1861 and 1865 Verdi was a member of the first Italian parliament.

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Carl Vine (born 1954) was born in Perth. A graduate of the University of Western Australia, he moved to Sydney in the mid-1970s where he has pursued an active career as a composer and performer. From 1980 to 1982 he was lecturer in Electronic Music Composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and since November 2000 has been the Artistic Director of Musica Viva Australia. He has more than 20 dance scores to his credit (including Poppy and Daisy Bates), seven symphonies, seven concertos (including a percussion concerto and a concerto for koto and strings), film and television music, chamber music and other works. In 2004 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra released The Tempest, a CD of music by Carl Vine conducted by Ola Rudner, as part of its Australian Music Series on ABC Classics.

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Famous for The Four Seasons, a suite of concertos for solo violin and string orchestra, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was one of the most influential composers of the baroque. The Venice-born composer wrote hundreds of concertos, many of them for the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage where Vivaldi was music tutor. (Vivaldi, incidentally, was a priest. He had red hair, which gave rise to the nickname “Il prete rosso” – the red priest.) His Op 3 collection of concertos, L’estro armonico, which was published in Amsterdam in 1711, made him famous throughout Europe. Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance, came to know the ins and outs of the Italian Style through close examination of Vivaldi’s music. He even arranged some of the concertos from L’estro armonico, a sure sign of his admiration for Vivaldi. Less well known is the fact that Vivaldi composed a significant quantity of operas, of which 21 survive, although not all in complete form. Vivaldi also composed sacred music, including masses, psalms and motets. Sadly, given his reputation and influence, he died in penury in Vienna. His music remained neglected for the better part of two centuries but has made a spectacular comeback in recent decades. Indeed, The Four Seasons is one of the most recorded pieces of classical music of all time.

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von Weber

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) is known to many as the composer of ‘Invitation to the Dance’, a piano piece that became well-known in the version orchestrated by Hector Berlioz. It was used as the music for the Ballets Russes ballet Le spectre de la rose. Far more significant to music history, however, is Weber’s opera Der Freischütz. Premièred in Berlin in 1821, Der Freischütz was an instant success and brought Weber to the attention of audiences in Germany and beyond. The orchestra plays a prominent role in Der Freischütz and is crucially important in creating atmosphere and building tension. In this and other respects the work was tremendously influential on later composers including Richard Wagner.


Composer, librettist, essayist and philosopher (of sorts), Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was one of the towering figures of the nineteenth century. Against all odds, he managed to pull off an astounding coup when he had a theatre built in the town of Bayreuth expressly to his specifications and expressly for the performance of his works. The Bayreuth Festival Theatre was inaugurated in 1876 with the first ever stagings of his epic work The Ring of the Nibelung (often abbreviated to the Ring), which consists of four full-scale operas. Composition of the Ring occupied Wagner for the better part of a quarter century. Typically for Wagner, he wrote both words and music. His other works include Tristan and IsoldeLohengrinParsifalThe Flying Dutchman and The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. He also wrote a small quantity of non-theatrical music but, compared to his other works, it holds a marginal place in his output. Wagner believed that music’s rightful place was alongside words in the service of drama, hence his focus on music for the stage. Despite Wagner’s reputation for Teutonic severity, countless brides have walked down the aisle to ‘Here Comes the Bride’, possibly unaware that it comes from Act III of Lohengrin. Other famous excerpts from his stage works include ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ and ‘Siegfried’s Funeral Music’, both of which are from the Ring. A notorious anti-Semite, Wagner was by all accounts a rather unpleasant person. That said, he was an extraordinarily gifted composer and a tremendously influential figure. Indeed, he was the progenitor of a movement in art and literature known as Wagnerism.

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William Walton (1902-1983) first came to prominence in the early 1920s with Façade, instrumental music written to accompany the recitation of poems by Edith Sitwell. Other successes of this decade include the orchestral overture Portsmouth Point and the Viola Concerto, the latter being one of the finest examples of its type. Subsequent works include the oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast, a major contribution to the English oratorio tradition, and scores for three of Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare films, Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III. Walton composed music for two coronations: Crown Imperial, for the coronation of George VI in 1937, and Orb and Sceptre for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 (Crown Imperial was reprised at this coronation). He was knighted in 1951. In the late 1940s he moved to the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples where he lived for the remainder of his life. Today, concerts are held in his former home, which sits in one of the most beautiful private gardens in Italy, the Giardini La Mortella.

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The fact that Peter Warlock (1894-1930) was born at London’s Savoy Hotel tells us something about the class into which he was born. Schooling at Eton followed and later Christ Church, Oxford. He disliked the latter and did not return after his first year. Warlock came to know Frederick Delius, Thomas Beecham and D H Lawrence (there is an unflattering portrait of him as “Halliday” in Woman in Love). Indeed, “Peter Warlock” is a pseudonym. His real name is Peter Heseltine, but he adopted the surname Warlock in 1916 to reflect his interest in the occult. All of his musical works were published under the pseudonym. Warlock had no interest in composing large-scale works and devoted his attention to songs above all. He also wrote some choral works and a small number of pieces for piano. The Capriol Suite is very nearly his only orchestral work (he conducted a performance of it at a Proms concert in 1929). Warlock also had a parallel career as a writer on music and, in addition to many journalistic pieces, wrote studies on Delius and Gesualdo and, reflecting his interest in early music, a book titled The English Ayre. Having been born in the Savoy, he died, of gas poisoning, in his basement flat in Chelsea. The coroner returned an open verdict.

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Best known for The Threepenny Opera, which was written in 1928 in conjunction with librettist Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill (1900-1950) came to prominence in 1920s Germany and helped to create the soundtrack for the Weimar Republic. Other works from the period include The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (again, to a libretto by Brecht) and The Seven Deadly Sins. The son of a rabbi, Weill realised straightaway that Nazi Germany was no place for him and fled to Paris in the very first days of the Hitler regime. In 1935 he left Europe altogether and settled in New York where he wrote for the Broadway stage. His American works include Knickerbocker HolidayOne Touch of Venus and Street Scene. Among his best known songs are ‘Mack the Knife’, ‘The Alabama Song’ and ‘Surabaya Johnny’. Weill’s wife was the singer Lotte Lenya, who sang in the original productions of some of his works (she created the role of Jenny in The Threepenny Opera) and achieved big-screen notoriety as the villainess in the early James Bond film, From Russia with Love.

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A musical all-rounder, Nigel Westlake (born 1958) is a composer, conductor and professional clarinettist. He has performed in a broad range of ensembles including orchestras, chamber groups and fusion bands and his conducting engagements have included appearances with the Sydney and Queensland symphony orchestras. His original music is heard in concert halls and chamber venues around the world and his film music credits include BabeMiss Potter and the IMAX films Antarctica and Solarmax. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has performed the Antarctica Suite on many occasions including concerts in Sydney and Canberra. The TSO has also recorded the Antarctica Suite along with Out of the Blue andInvocations. All three works appear on Nigel Westlake – Out of the Blue, a CD in the TSO’s Australian Music Series on ABC Classics. Westlake’s Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli, which was written to the memory of his slain  21-year-old son, was awarded Work of the Year at the 2012 APRA/Australian Music Centre Awards.

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Beijing-born Julian Yu (born 1957) settled in Australia in 1985. His many awards include the Koussevitzky Tanglewood Composition Prize (1988), Vienna Modern Masters Composition Award (1992) and Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize (1991 and 1994). His music has been performed all around the world including at the BBC Proms, Munich Biennale and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. In 2007 the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, with the support of TSO Patron Dr Peter Stanton, commissioned Yu’s Oriental Rain, which was premièred in Hobart on 27 July. In 2012 the TSO performed Yu’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) as part of Synaesthesia: Music of Colour and Mind.

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