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.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra