MPAs mourn Sculthorpe but celebrate his legacy

The death of Australia’s extraordinary composer, Peter Sculthorpe, has prompted tributes from around the country, including from AMPAG members.

MPAs mourn Sculthorpe but celebrate his legacy


Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Managing Director, Rory Jeffes said, ‘We are all deeply saddened to have lost this national treasure, but his contribution to the music community is imperishable.

‘Our hearts go out to Peter Sculthorpe’s loved ones at this time.’

As a way to honour Sculthorpe and his contribution to Australian cultural life, the SSO and its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson will perform Sculthorpe’sMemento Mori as an encore at each of the orchestra’s performances this week at the Sydney Opera House.

The SSO will also dedicate these three concerts to Sculthorpe.

The relationship between the SSO and Peter Sculthorpe ran deep and spanned some 50 years. It began when Sir Bernard Heinze invited him to writeSun Music I for the orchestra to perform at the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival in London as part of its first international tour.

Subsequently the SSO premiered numerous works by Sculthorpe, includingSun Music II,Love 200,MangroveandFrom Uluru.

Carl Vine AO, Artistic Director of Musica Viva, described Sculthorpe’s impact on Australian culture as profound and unparalleled.

‘No other person has had an impact on the musical identity of Australia like Peter Sculthorpe,’ he said.

‘He challenged our country’s position in the musical cosmos and then proceeded to redefine it as no one else before or since. His wry, collegial presence will be missed terribly, but his music remains as an eternal token of his peerless invention, vision and spirit.’

Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No 6 (1965) was the first work ever commissioned by Musica Viva followed by another 11 works over the years, including a full year as Musica Viva’s Featured Composer (2005).

His work appears regularly in Musica Viva concerts, including in the recent national tour by the Choir of Kings College Cambridge.

Sculthorpe was born in Invermay near Launceston, Tasmania in 1929, studying first at Launceston Church Grammar School, then Melbourne University, and Wadham College, Oxford in the UK.

His catalogue consists of more than 350 works. While his best known works include the orchestral piecesMangrove (1979) andKakadu (1988), he wrote in many genres from solos to opera. His 18 string quartets are frequently performed and theKronos Quartet toured the world playing No.8.

He was an inspiring teacher with composers such as Ross Edwards, Anne Boyd, Barry Conyngham and Matthew Hindson among his former students. He said in a 1994 interview: 'I love teaching and I love writing music, and I have found in the past that whenever I’ve taken time off from teaching, I have, in fact, written no more music. I think the more one does, the more one does.'

Evan Kennea, Executive Manager, Artistic Planning at West Australian Symphony Orchestra said: ‘For so many music-lovers, the music of Peter Sculthorpe quite simplyis the sound of Australia.

‘By looking to his own country and to the music and cultures of our near neighbours for inspiration, Peter created music of great emotional depth that not only resonated strongly with Australian musicians and audiences, but was heard and admired around the world.

‘The exciting, varied and vibrant Australian musical landscape as it is today is simply unimaginable without Peter’s enormous contribution, and he will be hugely missed.'

Nicholas Heyward, Managing Director of Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra said: 'We have lost a very great Tasmanian with the passing of Peter Sculthorpe—the first composer to develop a distinctively Australian accent.

'Peter is acknowledged internationally as a truly great composer. He was a great friend of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and to many of its musicians, staff and audience. One way or another he was involved with the TSO every season from its founding in 1948 and for the last sixty years the orchestra has played his music every season. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has commissioned, performed and recorded Peter Sculthorpe’s musicmost recently last year he wrote Pastorale for the Hush Foundation which was recorded by the TSO and premiered in Federation Concert Hall, Hobart in December 2013. Sculthorpe was also active as Patron of the TSO Foundation.

Peter Sculthorpe’s enormous contribution to our Australian sense of identity and his many works which adorn the Australian canon were recognised by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with the dedication of the world premiere of The Persistence of Memory by Graeme Koehene in its concert last Friday. Koehene is acknowledged as one of the leading Australian composers of the generation who have followed Peter’s lead.

Similarly, the TSO and its Chief Conductor Marko Letonja will dedicate the world premiere of Matthew Hindson’s Resonance which opens Synaesthesia Festival at MONA on Saturday to Peter Sculthorpe. Hindson is among Sculthorpe’s former students and has become one of our leading composers.

Libby Christie, Executive Director of The Australian Balletsaid: 'Peter Sculthorpe was truly an Australian musical icon. Probably the most influential of any Australian composers in any generation, Sculthorpe is recognised as the first composer to give voice to the Australian landscape.

'Drawing on musics of a variety of cultures, but with a particularly strong interest in and sensitivity for Australian Indigenous music, he was the first to take traditional classical music tools and create sound-scapes evoking the sense of space, emptiness, loneliness of the Australian outback.

'His work has been of massive importance to The Australian Ballet, right from the early years with Sun Music 1968. Commissioned by Sir Robert Helpmann, the work was the first non-narrative ballet success in the history of the company. It was seminal in demonstrating that audiences around the world were hungry for all Australian works and identifiably Australian artworks and helping shape the future of The Australian Ballet and Australian culture.

As a composer, teacher and mentor Sculthorpe was, and will remain, a giant in the Australian musical landscape.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra's Concertmaster, Warwick Adeney, said: 'There would be few musicians in Australia not mourning the passing of one of country’s greatest composers in Peter Sculthorpe.

'Among them is the entire Queensland Symphony Orchestra with which this internationally renowned composer shared a special relationship, that of Composer Emeritus.

'Batons around the world should be lowered this week to pay tribute to an extraordinary composer and musician, one who sought inspiration and truth in the Australian landscape and somehow translated what he saw and heard and felt into the most wonderful, critically-acclaimed pieces. It is music that has already moved generations, and will always.

Peter Sculthorpe’s music is integral to the QSO’s repertoire. We have always loved and played Peter Sculthorpe’s works, for 30 years or more; and we will continue to do so. It’s testament to his incredible talent and vision.

Long associated with the QSO, Peter Sculthorpe toured Japan with the Orchestra in 2002 when they played his works at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall.

'This was indeed a privilegetouring with Peter Sculthorpe and playing his works in Japan. Not long after that tour we recorded the ground-breakingSongs of Sea and Sky with our then Artist-in-Residence Mr William Barton.

'Recorded to celebrate his 75th birthday, Songs of Sea and Sky featuring William Barton on didgeridoo with the QSO has gone on to become a flagship recording of Peter Sculthorpe’s work.

'The Queensland Symphony Orchestra remembers Peter Sculthorpe as true gentlemen, an Australian Living Treasure and a wonderful, irreplaceable composer and musician.'

Sculthorpe was chosen as one of Australia's 100 Living National Treasures in 1997 (National Trust of Australia). He was also declared a Distinguished Artist 2001 (International Society for the Performing Arts), Honorary Foreign Life Member in 2003 (American Academy of Arts and Letters) and one of the 100 Most Influential Australians in 2006 (The Bulletin magazine).