Graeme Skinner
And curator of Australharmony

About Graeme Skinner
Australharmony @ Trove
Graeme Skinner @ Trove
Graeme Skinner @
University of Sydney
The Australharmonist
The Amadio family
Sculthorpe obituary
Sculthorpe memorial
Ross Edwards
Castelnuovo-Tesdesco Guitar Concerto No 1
Lambert Piano Concerto
Haydn & Dvořák @ Edinburgh Festival 2010
Narcisse Pelletier



Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian Composer

Graeme Skinner
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer
(Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2007)
ISBN 978 086840 941 2 (hbk.)

A scan of the original 2007 print, with all the illustrations, remains available for preview at Google Books 

Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian Composer

Graeme Skinner
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer
(Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2007, with new preface and corrections, 2015)
ISBN 9781742234618 (paperback)
ISBN 9781742242163 (ebook)
ISBN 9781742247496 (ePDF)

The text of the 2015 ebook, without illustrations, but with a new preface and some minor corrections, is available for preview at Google Books

If the print paperback is too expensive (or bulky) for you, you can now purchase the ebook at a very considerable discount at
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer‎

Reviews (2007):

Other press:

Curriculum resources, pamphlets, edited books

Graeme Skinner
Sculthorpe: an icon of Australian music
[NSW Secondary Syllabus Teaching Resource Teaching Kit]
(Sydney: Australian Music Centre, 2010)

A curriculum resource kit designed to enhance the information base and sills of music students at secondary level, focusing on uaral and musicological comprehension. Includes booklet, with numerous score extracts, & CD of performances directed and edited by Christopher Latham. It introduces the composer, Peter Sculthorpe, with a general discussion of his life and career and his musical output, followed by 6 units with background, analyses and discussions of the 7 featured works on the CD: Irkanda IV for string quartet, Left Bank Waltz for piano solo, Djilile for piano solo, Night Song for clarinet, violin and piano, The Stars Turn for voice and piano, Sun in Me for voice and piano, and Dream Tracks for clarinet, violin and piano.

This kit was originally commissioned, titled, and published by the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, for its education program.

Graeme Skinner
Nigel Butterley’s From sorrowing earth: an analysis

(published on the occasion of the selection of this work for the Sounds Australian Music Award for best composition by an Australian composer)
(Sydney: Sounds Australian [Australian Music Centre], [1992])

Graeme Skinner (ed.)
The composer speaks: composers and their colleagues discuss Australian music

(Proceedings of the Australian National Composers Conference, 1988, Sydney)
(Sydney: Sounds Australian [Australian Music Centre], [1992])

Graeme Skinner (ed.)
Richard Meale: list of works

(Artarmon: Boosey and Hawkes Australia, 1991)

Curated websites

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)

An online resource toward the history of music in colonial and early Federation Australia

Graeme Skinner
Professional website

Doctoral thesis 2011


Graeme Skinner
Toward a general history of Australian musical composition: first national music, 1788-c. 1860
(Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, 2011) (full text, Sydney eScholarship)

This study is a first attempt at a history of musical composition in early colonial Australia. It demonstrates that the existing general literature gives an inadequate account of the role of composers, and the function and reception of locally composed music within colonial society. Whereas fewer than 50 individual works have been cited in previous literature on the period, an appendix checklist identifies 880. This new data is used to chronicle the early history of compositional activity in Australia, from the European takeover onward. While no attempt has been made to hypothesise prior creative activity, early European transcriptions of Indigenous song, characterised at the time as the authentic “Australian National Music“, are one focus of the early chapters.

In the opinion of Robyn Holmes, Senior Curator, National Library of Australia:

“This thesis represents ground breaking research. It will fundamentally change perceptions and historical understanding of Australia’s national musical culture in the colonial period.”

Scholarly book chapters

Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Multum in parvo: a 1555 Morales processional partbook at Toledo Cathedral, its genesis, use, and later history”
in Tess Knighton and Emilio Ros-Fábregas (eds),
New perspectives on early music in Spain (Papers on Hispanic music from the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, Barcelona 2011)
(Kassel: Reichenberg, 2015)
ISBN: 978-3-944244-15-0I
SSN: 2364-6969

Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Liturgia y polifonía: globalización y localismo en la catedral de Toledo durante los años Del Greco”
in Eva Esteve Roldán, Carlos Martínez Gil y Víctor Pliego de Andrés (eds),
El entorno musical del Greco. Actas del Simposio celebrado en Toledo (30 de enero - 2 de febrero de 2014)
(Madrid: Editorial Musicalis, 2015)
ISBN13 978-84-935463-9-7 (DOWNLOAD PDF)

RESUMEN: Ante la evidencia de los libros de coro conservados, la polifonía cantada en la catedral de Toledo a mediados del siglo XVI - una época de estabilidad litúrgica y de tranquilidad institucional - consistía en una mezcla estilísticamente variada de fuentes del Ordinario de la Misa y motetes en gran parte internacionales, y de piezas para el oficio y otras obras para el ritual compuestas por los maestros de coro locales o tomadas de otras fuentes ibéricas. En contraste, como la catedral pasó el último cuarto del siglo ajustándose gradualmente a la nueva liturgia romana de imposición universal, se observa en esta época una constante disminución en la proporción de la adquisición de polifonía procedente de fuentes no hispánicas. ¿Fue ésta tendencia simplemente el resultado saludable de la expansión de la polifonía litúrgica española, o reflejaba también un intento de apoyar la tradición local contra el cada vez más serio impacto de fuerzas externas? Esta ponencia considera las evidencias procedentes de una serie de fuentes documentales y musicales que trazan las tendencias tanto a nivel internacional como local en la polifonía de Toledo durante los años del Greco (1577-1614).

PALABRAS CLAVE: liturgia, polifonía, globalización, localismo, Toledo

ABSTRACT: On the evidence of its surviving choirbooks, polyphony sung at Toledo Cathedral in the mid sixteenth century - a time of liturgical stability and institutional confidence - consisted of a stylistically dynamic mix of largely internationally-sourced Mass Ordinaries and motets, and office and other ritual items composed by resident chapelmasters or supplied from other Iberian sources. By contrast, as the cathedral spent the final quarter of the century gradually adjusting to the newly imposed Roman liturgy, a steadily falling proportion of newly acquired polyphony derived from non-Hispanic sources. Was this trend, merely the healthy result of the burgeoning of Spanish liturgical polyphony, or did it also reflect an attempt to shore up local tradition again further severe impact from external forces? This paper considers evidence from a range of musical and documentary sources to chart international and local trends in polyphony at Toledo during the El Greco years (1577-1614).

KEYWORDS: liturgy, polyphony, globalization, localism, Toledo.

Graeme Skinner
(University of Sydney)
“Australian musical first modernism”
in Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren (eds), The modernist world (New York: Routledge, 2015), 273-81
ISBN 978-0-415-84503-8


Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner
“The cathedral, the copyist, the composer and the canon: revising Toledo Cathedral’s Victoria Choirbook and the Liber primus (1576)”

In Javier Suárez-Pajares and Manuel del Sol (eds), Tomás Luis de Victoria: Estudios/Studies (Madrid: Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales, 2013), 37-54: ISBN: 978-84-89457-49-2

Abstract: The Toledo cathedral choirbook E-Tc 30, copied in Rome before September 1575 by the papal chapel scribe Johannes Parvus, is probably the most important, and certainly the most expertly copied, of all manuscript sources of the works of Tomás Luis de Victoria. Preserving eleven Latin liturgical works, the choirbook was either commissioned or otherwise acquired by Juan Navarra, a canon of Toledo cathedral, during time he spent in Rome as a counsellor to imprisoned archbishop of Toledo, then undergoing a protracted papal inquisitorial process. The versions of the works preserved in the manuscript differ significantly from those of the same works as published by Victoria in 1576, 1581, and 1600. This chapter re-examines the codicological, archival, and stylistic evidence, and reconsiders the versions of Victoria’s works transmitted in this Roman manuscript in the light of a complex interplay of potentially determining factors, including the evolution of the composer's musical style and his career ambitions, the circumstances of its copying by Parvus, acquisition by Navarra, and the extent and limitations of its likely utility in ritual performances at Toledo.

El libro de coro E-Tc 30 de la catedral de Toledo, copiado en Roma antes del mes de septiembre de 1575 por Johannes Parvus, copista de la capilla papal, es probablemente la fuente manuscrita más importante de las obras de Tomás Luis de Victoria y, ciertamente, la que se copió de una manera más experta. Contiene once composiciones litúrgicas en latín y fue comisionado o, en cualquier caso, adquirido por el canónigo de la catedral de Toledo Juan Navarra durante el tiempo en que estuvo en Roma como consejero del arzobispo de Toledo que se encontraba allí encarcelado y luego sometido a un largo proceso inquisitorial por parte del Papa. Las versiones de las obras conservadas en el manuscrito difieren significativamente de las publicadas por Victoria en 1576, 1581 y 1600. Eneste trabajo se reexaminan las evidencias codicológicas, archivísticas y estilísticas, y se reconsideran las versionesde las obras de Victoria transmitidas en este manuscrito romano a la luz de un complejo entramado de factores potencialmente determinantes que incluyen la evolución del estilo musical del compositor y sus ambiciones profesionales así como las circunstancias de su copia por Parvus, la adquisición por Navarra y el alcance y limitaciones de su probable utilidad en los ritos desarrollados en Toledo.

Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner
“Toledo Cathedral’s manuscript polyphonic choirbooks ToleBC 18, ToleBC 25, and ToleBC 34 and their origins”

in João Pedro d’ Alvarenga and Manuel Pedro Ferreira (eds), “New Music” 1400-1600: Papers from an International Colloquium on the Theory, Authorship and Transmission of Music in the Age of the Renaissance (Lisboa, Évora, CESEM, Centro de História da Arte da Universidade de Évora, Editora Casa do Sul, 2009), 129-170
ISBN 978-972-8661-48-9


Michael Noone, Graeme Skinner y Ángel Fernández Collado
“El fondo de cantorales de canto llano de la catedral de Toledo: Informe y catálogo provisional”

in Memoria Ecclesiae 31: Música y archivos de la iglesia (Asociación de Archiveros de la iglesia en España, 2008), 585-632

Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner
“The Nuevo rezado, music scribes, and the restoration of Morales’s Toledo Lamentation”

in Owen Rees & Bernadette Nelson (eds), Cristóbal de Morales: sources, influences, reception (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2007), 3-22


Peer-reviewed journal articles


Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“The invention of Australian music”
Musicology Australia (December 2015 forthcoming) 

Graeme Skinner
“Mapping Australian colonial music with Trove: new paradigms for music research, teaching, and librarianship”

Music References Services Quarterly 14/1-2 (2011), 1-14

Abstract: Survivals of U.S. and Australian early nineteenth-century sheet music share many generic and stylistic similarities. The library sectors in America and Australia are likewise similar, in having made this material available online early in their digitization programs. The freer access occasioned is now leading to a reconsideration of this previously misunderstood music, evidence of a partly shared music culture still largely unaffected by nineteenth-century canons. Positively dating the many undated prints has hitherto hampered scholars, students, and librarians. But now the National Library of Australia’s new free online search service, Trove (, allows definitive dating of much early Australian printed music from articles and advertisements in electronic newspaper archives.

Graeme Skinner
“Australian composers and arrangers of early colonial synagogue music: new light on Isaac Nathan, James Henri Anderson, Joseph Reichenberg, and Herman Hoelzel” The Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal 20/2 (June 2011), 193-214

Abstract: Isaac Nathan (1792-1864) has traditionally been regarded as the founding father of synagogue music in Australia. However, while he played a leading role in the music at the consecration of Sydney’s York Street Synagogue in 1844/5604, others also made significant, and more to the point surviving, contributions to colonial Jewish music. The observant Jewish pianist and composer James Henri Anderson later published a set of melodies sung at the Sydney service, The Lays of the Hebrews, and was involved as a composer and musical director in other consecrations and dedications in Launceston, Hobart, and at Sydney’s Macquarie Street Synagogue. Meanwhile, the Italian-born Roman Catholic Joseph Reichenberg directed the music at the dedication of Hobart’s Argyle Street Synagogue in 1845/5605, and published his own set of arrangements of traditional chants, as Ancient Hebrew Melodies. Both Anderson’s and Reichenberg’s published sets, as well as a pair of arrangements of 1857 by Rabbi Herman Hoelzel, are significant survivals of the work of colonial composers, important contributions to the small roll-call of early colonial ritual music for various settler religious denominations.

Note: This article went from proof to print with errors in titling on both the contents pages and at the article head; the correct title as above.

Graeme Skinner
“Peter Sculthorpe: Los Espíritus del lugar”

[“Peter Sculthorpe: Spirits of Place“; translated: Miguel Ángel Coll]
Sibila (Revista de arte, música y literatura) 21 (Sevilla, Abril 2006), 47-54

Opening (en): For an imaginative child growing up in Tasmania in the 1930s, the island of Lilliput that he read about in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was not in some Antipodes, half a world away. By Swift’s own reckoning, it was just off the north Tasmanian coast, over the horizon perhaps, impalpable, intangible but almost within reach ...

Opening (es): Para un niño imaginativo que se crió en Tasmania en la década de 1930, la isla de Lilliput sobre la que leyó en los Viajes de Gul!iver de Jonathan Swift no se hallaba en unas supuestas antipodas, a medio mundo de distancia. Según la estimación del propio Swift, se encontraba justo al norte de la costa tasmania, tal vez del otro lado del horisante, impalpable, intangible pero casi al alcance...

Graeme Skinner
“Some makings of an Australian Composer (1964-65): Historical Context and the National Library of Australia’s Peter Sculthorpe Papers”
Fontes Artis Musicae 55/1 (January-March 2008), 111-127

Abstract: Under the shelf-mark, National Library of Australia, MS 9676, the “Papers of Peter Sculthorpe“ already comprise some 25 linear metres of personal and professional correspondence, autograph scores, printed ephemera (concert programs and press clippings), photographs, and other memorabilia, collected by the composer over most of a lifetime. This article summarises the contents, and addresses its importance of the collection, especially to the study of Sculthorpe’s “first period” (1929-74), and to the monograph literature on the composer. It also gives a referenced account of the historical background to Sculthorpe’s emergence as a figure of national importance, and as one of a new wave of modernist Australian composers in the years 1963-64. Finally, complementing his recent biography of the composer, Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer, the author presents new data found among a newly identified correspondence drafts dating from these same years.

A la Bibliotheque nationale d'Australie, la cote MS 9676 designant les papiers de Peter Sculthorpe occupe en ce moment quelques 25 metres lineaires de correspondance personnelle et professionnelle, de partitions autographes, de documents imprimes ephemeres (programmes de concerts et coupures de presse), de photographies et autres souvenirs accumules par le compositeur pendant la majeure partie de sa vie. Cet article recapitule le contenu de cette collection et aborde son importance pour l'etude de la «premiere periode» de sa vie (1929-74) ainsi que pour les monographies qui existent a son sujet. Il apporte egalement un compte-rendu reference sur le contexte historique de l'emergence de Sculthorpe comme figure d'importance nationale et comme l'un des compositeurs modernistes de la nouvelle vague des annees 1963-64. Enfin, en complement de sa biographie sur le compositeur, Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer, l’auteur presente de nouvelles informations qui ont ete recemment identifiees comme etant des brouillons de correspondances de ces memes annees.


Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner
“Toledo Cathedral’s collection of manuscript plainsong choirbooks: a preliminary report and checklist”

Notes (Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association) 63/2 (December 2006), 289-328

Abstract: The Spanish primatial cathedral of Toledo possesses one of the largest surviving collections of indigenously produced plainsong sources deriving from any major ecclesiastical institution in Western Christendom. The collection comprises about 170 volumes for the Mass, Office, and processions, including atlas-size choirbooks produced for use in liturgical functions held in the cathedral’s own coro (liturgical choir), and smaller volumes for its various chapels. Bound between leather-covered wooden boards, most of these parchment volumes were copied, illuminated, corrected, and bound in Toledo by the cathedral’s regularly contracted lay craftsmen. Around thirty books of non-Toledan provenance have been added to the collection, forming a musical repository comprising in excess of 22,000 folios, the great majority of which, despite serious damage to some volumes, are entirely legible.

Conference and other public presentations

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Uncovering the foundations: the colonial pre-history of Sydney Conservatorium”
Public lecture, in About music: Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, 2014 Monday Public Lecture Series (convened by Prof. Linda Barwick), 28 April 2014, 5:30-6:30, Recital Hall East

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“A fatal comeuppance? Chevalier Bochsa finally goes to Botany Bay”
Invited paper, to the 12th World Harp Congress, Sydney, Australia, Monday 21 July 2014, 9am, Four Seasons Hotel Ballroom, Sydney

Michael Noone (Boston College) and Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Liturgy and polyphony: internationalization and localism in the Cathedral of Toledo during El Greco’s time” / “Liturgia y Polifonía: internacionalización y localismo en la catedral de Toledo durante los años de El Greco”
Conference paper, at Symposium El Greco's Musical Environment, Real Fundación de Toledo, Toledo, Spain, 30 January-2 February 2014; convenor: Carlos Martínez Gil  

Abstract (en): On the evidence of its surviving choirbooks, polyphony sung at Toledo Cathedral in the mid sixteenth century—a time of liturgical stability and institutional confidence—consisted of a stylistically dynamic mix of largely internationally-sourced mass ordinaries and motets, and office and other ritual items composed by resident chapelmasters or supplied from other Iberian sources. By contrast, as the cathedral spent the final quarter of the century gradually adjusting to the newly imposed Roman liturgy, a steadily falling proportion of newly acquired polyphony derived from non-Spanish sources. Was this trend merely the healthy result of the burgeoning of Spanish liturgical polyphony, or did it also reflect an attempt to shore up local tradition again further severe impact from external forces? This paper considers evidence from a range of musical and documentary sources to chart internationalising and localising trends in polyphony at Toledo during the El Greco years (1577-1614).  

Abstract (es): La polifonía que se cantaba en la catedral de Toledo a mediados del siglo XVI —una época de estabilidad litúrgica y de tranquilidad institucional— consistía, a partir de los libros de coro que hemos conservado, en una mezcla estilísticamente variada de fuentes del Ordinario de la Misa y de motetes en gran parte internacionales, y en piezas para el oficio y otras obras para el ritual compuestas por los maestros de coro locales o tomadas de otras fuentes ibéricas. En contraste, como la catedral pasó el último cuarto del siglo ajustándose gradualmente a la nueva liturgia romana de imposición universal, se observa en esta época una constante disminución en la proporción de la adquisición de polifonía de fuentes no hispánicas. ¿Fue ésta tendencia simplemente el resultado saludable de la expansión de la polifonía litúrgica española, o reflejaba también un intento de apoyar la tradición local contra el cada vez más serio impacto de fuerzas externas? Esta ponencia considera las pruebas procedentes de una variedad de fuentes documentales y musicales que trazan las tendencias tanto a nivel internacional como local en la polifonía de Toledo durante los años de El Greco (1577-1614).

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Musical “Sydney moderns” between the two world wars?”
Conference paper at Raymond Hanson Centenary Symposium, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, 23 November 2013; convenors: Assoc. Prof. Kathleen Nelson and Dr. Joanna Drimatis 

Abstract: As demonstrated again recently in the wonderful 2013 “Sydney Moderns: Art for a New World” exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, contemporary European modernisms were an important influence on the creative output on Sydney’s leading-edge visual artists between the wars. For a variety of reasons, both historical and historiographical, Sydney performers and composers of the same years are typically seen as having been slower or less inclined to respond creatively to European musical modernisms, especially as exemplified in the music of Schoenberg and his followers, and Stravinsky. But does history show this indeed to have been the case? Or has an incomplete understanding of post-Federation musical history further contributed to the lingering belief that Australian music only belatedly achieved its “first modernity” in the 1960s.


Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Sydney Cecilians and Dilettanti: implanting the science and practice of music in early colonial Australia, 1838–1842”
Conference paper, at Global Corelli: fame and music in the early modern world, School of Music, Australian National University, 4–5 November 2013; convenor: Dr. David R. M. Irving

Abstract: Between the pioneering Sydney Amateur Concerts in 1826 (including the earliest documented Australian Corelli performance) and the foundation of the first ongoing Sydney Philharmonic Society in 1854 (“for the cultivation and performance of the most approved Vocal and Instrumental Music”), a succession of short-lived amateur societies attempted to embed the collective practice of classical music in the civic life of the settler colony. Though most of these organisations left even fewer traces than even the fleeting Dilettanti, just enough evidence remains of one of the slightly more enduring, the Cecilian Society, to be able to reconstruct a chronology of its brief rise and fall; to hazard a preliminary analysis of its antecedents, objectives, activities, and membership; to trace its connections with and impact upon the professional musical economy; to situate it in relationship to other amateur ventures; and to begin to speculate on the historical significance of such organisations to the development of both musical and socio-political self-determination in an antipodal British dependency.

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“The invention of Australian music and music in (early colonial) Australia”
Paper, in Musicology Colloquium Series, 30 October 2013, 4pm, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney; convenors: Rachel Campbell, Dr. Christopher Coady, Dr. David Larkin

Abstract: From surprisingly early in colonial history, settler Australians self-consciously envisaged the emergence of their own “national music”, alongside a variety of other idealised Australian traits. Seen as both compositional product and cultural practice, a distinctive settler “Australian music” was to arise out of a blending of English, Scottish and Irish cultural and ethnic antecedents, “native” geographical and developing social and political determinants, and was to be actively encouraged as a means of public education, community and moral advancement, and nation building. Meanwhile, as settlers contrived a musical culture and economy in their own image, a separately-defined Indigenous “Australian music” became increasingly irrelevant to their aspirations and interests. This paper also considers the failure of this colonial venture to register in international musical or Australian national historiography, despite its achievement of some of its apparent objectives.

Dictionary entries and online resources

Graeme Skinner
“Grabowsky, Paul [The Count]”

Grove Music Online (New York: Oxford University Press) (New 26 Oct 2011)

Opening: Australian composer, pianist, jazz band leader, and arts administrator. Classically trained, but having spent his early career largely in jazz, he is one of Australia’s most highly-acclaimed early twenty-first-century composers in any genre. Both as composer and performer, he has been committed to collaborative, improvisatory, and cross-cultural projects. His programming of Indigenous Australian content at the 50th-anniversary Adelaide Festival in 2010 (including a collaboration between the Ngukuur Young Wagilak songmen of southeast Arnhem Land and the London Sinfonietta) was, for the festival, a much belated but major intervention in advancing the national and international profile of Aboriginal musical arts …

Graeme Skinner
“Stanhope, Paul”
Grove Music Online (New York: Oxford University Press) (New 26 Oct 2011)

Opening: Australian composer and conductor. He took composition lessons with Andrew Ford and Andrew Schultz at the University of Wollongong, studied with Peter Sculthorpe at the University of Sydney, and later, as recipient of a Charles Mackerras Scholarship, at the Guildhall School of Music in London. He also spent a period in 1997 at the University of York, which, under the late Wilfrid Mellers, had a long history of welcoming Australian composers and engaging with their music … awarded a PhD in composition from Sydney University in 1999, for a folio of works and an analytical commentary which he subtitled “A personal geography.” The latter term, as he writes elsewhere, aims to convey to the listener a sense of personal optimism, “whether this is a reaction to the elemental aspects of the universe (both the celestial and terrestrial) or the throbbing energy of the inner-city”…

Warren Bebbington/Graeme Skinner
“Edwards, Ross”
Grove Music Online (New York: Oxford University Press) (GS update new 26 Oct 2011)

Extract: … Edwards’s retiring, and somewhat unworldly personal manner belies his fierce individualism. Paul Griffiths, who in the early 1980s saw Australian music as generally tonally regressive (a trend notable at the time also in the work of Meale, Graeme Koehne, Carl Vine, Nigel Westlake, and to a lesser extent Sculthorpe), famously dismissed Edwards’s widely-played post-minimalist Piano Concerto (1982) as “music that gives A-major a bad name”. But the aesthetic current proved to be with Edwards, who went on to produce a far more compelling realisation of his aesthetic in the Maninyas Violin Concerto (1988). Alternately austerely meditative and buoyantly vibrant, his personal style is immediately recognisable, perhaps even more so than that of his close friend and former teacher Sculthorpe. It has been one of the most convincing voices in Australian music in the decades either side of the millennium, and its development is ongoing, especially in the growing body of solo concertos …

Warren Bebbington/Graeme Skinner
“Vine, Carl”

Grove Music Online (New York: Oxford University Press) (GS update new 26 Oct 2011)

Extract: … Since the mid-1980s, Vine has been one of Australia’s most often performed concert-hall composers, his music being recognised for its uniquely successful synthesis of classical and tonal models, and current technological possibilities, while he himself has won wide respect for his combination of composing and superior performing skills …

Graeme Skinner
25 entries on 19th- and early 20th-century Australian musicians/composers/musical organisations
Dictionary of Sydney

Graeme Skinner (editor)
Australian Composers Online (web resources)
Conservatorium Library, University of Sydney, launched May 2009

Description: For Australian Composers Online, we asked 20 Contemporary Australian Composers not currently represented exclusively by commercial music publishers, to license us to publish electronically, internally within the University for a period of 2 years (2009-2010), a selection of their scores, in a variety of “modern classical” genres, orchestral, vocal, chamber and instrumental. Included are works by University staff composers, Michael Smetanin, Trevor Pearce, Mary Finsterer, Damien Ricketson. Leading this contemporary cohort is our Senior Composer Laureate, Nigel Butterley, who has allowed us to include scores of 28 works, a massive conspectus of his long and distinguished career. In addition, our inaugural Historical Australian Composers Archive centres on out-of-copyright printed editions and manuscripts by two Sydney-born composers of the early 20th century, Roy Agnew and Frederick Septimus Kelly. Made available with the kind permission of his executors, is a selection of 15 works from the Conservatorium Library’s archive of manuscript scores by Raymond Hanson who taught composition at The Con in the middle of last century (Nigel Butterley among his students) …”


Graeme Skinner
“Primavera, Giovan Leonardo”
in Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds),  Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: from antiquity to World War II (New York & London: Routledge, 2001), 424-25

“… Italian composer …  Undoubtedly his most famous piece during his lifetime and since was a madrigal Nasce la gioja mia, based on an arguably homoerotic poem addressed, unusually, in the masculine, to “il mio bel sole” (my beautiful sun). This work, which first appeared in print in 1565, also circulated in numerous manuscript copies across Europe in the late 16th century, and was further immortalised when Palestrina used it as the theme for a his Missa Nasce la gioja mia (published 1590) …

Graeme Skinner
“Rosenmüller, Johann”
in Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds),  Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: from antiquity to World War II (New York & London: Routledge, 2001), 452-53

Graeme Skinner
“Cowell, Henry”
In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds), Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from World War II to the present day (London: Routledge, 2001/2003), 127-28

Graeme Skinner
“Poulenc, Francis”
In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds), Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from World War II to the present day (London: Routledge, 2001/2003), 335-36

Graeme Skinner
“Rorem, Ned”
In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds), Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from World War II to the present day (London: Routledge, 2001/2003), 357

Graeme Skinner
“Szymanowski, Karol”
In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds), Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from World War II to the present day (London: Routledge, 2001/2003), 509-10

Graeme Skinner
“Tippett, Michael”

In Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds), Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from World War II to the present day (London: Routledge, 2001/2003), 401-03

CD sleeve notes and booklet essays (selection only)

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Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Ross Edwards: Heart of Night: concertos for oboe, clarinet and shakuhachi; Diana Doherty, oboe; Riley Lee, shakuhachi; David Thomas, clarinet; Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; Arvo Volmer; ABC CLASSICS CD 476 3768 (2011)

… Edwards told The Sydney Morning Herald that classical music “shouldn’t be so esoteric, it has to actually seduce people.” And arguably, his music has achieved this more comprehensively than that of any of his Australian classical composer contemporaries. The three concertos on this album all contribute to the now often-heard opinion, recently and succinctly put in The West Australian (15 September 2009), that Ross Edwards’ “idiosyncratic style makes him easily the most identifiable of all Australian composers” …

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
J. S. Bach: Oboe concertos; Diana Doherty; Ironwood (period instrument ensemble); ABC CLASSICS CD 4763673 (2010)

 “… Though Bach composed some splendid single instrumental movements with oboe solo for his cantatas, his surviving autograph manuscripts and authenticated copies of his music do not include either a complete solo concerto, or solo sonata, for this, the second most important orchestral instrument of the first half of the 18th century. It seems highly unlikely, however, that this is the result of a conscious act of omission on Bach’s part. Rather, it seems that Bach did compose both concertos and at least one sonata for oboe, second only to the ubiquitous violin, in fact, as solo instrument of choice for composers who – like Bach in Saxony, Telemann in Hamburg, and Handel in London – practised the new Italian style in northern Europe during the second and third decades of the century …”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Peggy Glanville-Hicks: Orchestral Works:
Etruscan Concerto; Sappho (Final Scene); Tragic Celebration; Letters from Morocco; Caroline Almonte; Deborah Riedel; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; Richard Mills; ABC CLASSICS CD 476 3222 (2009)

 “As a still relatively young nation, Australia could be considered fortunate to have collected so few notable dead composers! For most of the 20th century, almost every composer we could claim was very much alive. Yet, sadly, this did not stop us from losing track of some of our most talented, who went away and stayed away, as did Percy Grainger and Arthur Benjamin (the only Australian composer blacklisted by Goebbels), or returned too late, like Don Banks. And we are now rediscovering many other interesting stay-aways, like George Clutsam (not just the arranger of Lilac Time), Ernest Hutchinson, John Gough (Launceston-born, like Peter Sculthorpe) and Hubert Clifford. Meanwhile, among those who valiantly toiled away at home, we are at last realising that names like Roy Agnew, John Antill and David Ahern might not just be of local interest, but reasonably take their place at the head of any roster of composing ‘dead white males’. Even more so than for men, settler Australia’s short musical past is remarkable for its roll-call of significant females: Margaret Sutherland (perhaps our greatest deceased composer of either sex), Miriam Hyde, Dulcie Holland, Iris de Cairos-Rego, Esther Rofe, Marjorie Hesse, Linda Phillips, Ina Mornement, Phyllis Batchelor ... The list goes on, and on. It’s been argued, of course, that women were left to do the hard yards at home between the wars, precisely because Australia so actively discouraged its men from composing that they had no option but to go away. Equally true, relatively few of our composing women flourished ‘abroad’ for long, though Tasmanian Katharine Parker (Longford-born and Grainger protégée) did, and Melburnian Peggy Glanville-Hicks is the notable other. Indeed, Edward Cole’s notes for the 1956 American first recording of her Etruscan Concerto make the unique claim: ‘Peggy Glanville-Hicks is the exception to the rule that women composers do not measure up to the standards set in the field by men.’ …”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Gerard Brophy: Orchestral works: The Republic of Dreams; Mantras; Maracatu; Forbidden Colours; Le Réveil de l’ange; Genevieve Lang, harp ; Philip South, darabukka ; Lisa Moore, piano; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Young, conductor ; Dobbs Franks, conductor ;  ABC CLASSICS CD 476 3220 (2009)

“Almost every Australian composer born between the end of the First World War and the end of the baby-boomer generation owes even their most modest reputation to a half-truth: that it was only in the early 1960s that our postcolonial music culture caught up with the world and produced its first distinctive national school of composers. In press columns, and in his 1967 book Australia’s Music: Themes of a New Society, Roger Covell gave culturally literate Australians their first reliable list of composers worth following, most of them contemporary. And what Donald Peart dubbed ‘The Australian Avant-garde’ owed as much to frustrations of journalists, academics and conductors with the deadening local cult of ‘musical cobwebs’ as it did to the talents of the new movement’s anointed leaders, Peter Sculthorpe, Richard Meale, Nigel Butterley and Larry Sitsky. Yet what started out as a blatant case of cultural engineering took on a natural momentum of its own with the arrival in the 1970s of a second generation, students of the first, including Anne Boyd, Ross Edwards, Martin Wesley-Smith and Barry Conyngham. By the time an exponentially larger third generation burst onto the scene in the 1980s – Gerard Brophy prominent among them – Australian composition had become a confident and steadily growing enterprise, which by now had acquired not only a past, but what promised to be a bright and increasingly diverse future … ”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet essay]
The Amadio Family; John Amadio, flute; Clive Amadio, clarinet & saxophone; Neville Amadio, flute; ABC CLASSICS CD (2011; withdrawn for copyright reasons)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet essay]
The Italian Ground: Renaissance music for harps and guitars, Italian Ludovico’s Band; Marshall McGuire; Tommie Andersson; ABC Classics: 476 6158 (2007)

 “One of the most pervasive musical myths of the later European Renaissance is that of the hero–singer Orpheus (Orfeo), and the lyre with which he is said to have accompanied his songs. Following the musical fashions of the times, Orpheus’s lyre was often represented later in the era as a lute or guitar (a word derived from the Greek kithara). Earlier, however, it had been pictured (by the painter Brueghel, among others) as a small harp. According to legend, the instrument, whatever its physical attributes, was that given to Orpheus by one of the gods (Hermes or Apollo, depending on the version of the tale). With it, he had charmed the gatekeepers of the Underworld, in his attempt to rescue his beloved Eurydice from the realm of the dead. Though the beauty of his song succeeded in its immediate aim, Orpheus’s ultimate failure hardly needs retelling. Despite the gods’ demand that he not do so until safely out of Hades, he could not resist the temptation to gaze on Eurydice’s beauty, and, in looking, he lost her! As a memorial both to his love and to his failure, after Orpheus’s death the king of the gods, so it is said, placed a simulacrum of his harp in the sky, where to this day it remains the constellation Lyra. Its very brightest star these days is called Vega, but was once also known as ‘the harp star’ …”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Peter Sculthorpe: Requiem (2004) and other orchestral works
; My country childhood; Earth cry (abridged version); Great Sandy Island; New Norcia; Quamby (for chamber orchestra); Adelaide Chamber Singers; William Barton; Adelaide Symphony Orchestra; Arvo Volmer; James Judd; ABC CLASSICS 2CD 476 5693 (2006)

 “Since the mid 1950s, death has never been far from Sculthorpe’s music, the nexus between the Australian landscape and the dreamtime world beyond …Sculthorpe set aside most of the year around his 75th birthday in 2004 to compose, and then revise, this choral and orchestral setting of the Latin requiem mass. As if to play down the portentous nature of such an exercise, and to assert its essentially familiar aspect, he dedicated it to the memory of his father and mother, who died in 1961 and 1994 respectively, and explained that its main concerns are not with judgment and reckoning (though these do rear their heads in the ‘Dies irae’) but ‘with eternal rest and with light that is all enlightening, both of primary concern to all human beings’ …”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Peter Sculthorpe: Orchestral works; Port Arthur: In memoriam (1996) [version with trumpet], Djilile (1988/1996), The Fifth Continent (1963), Lament for cello and strings (1976/1991), Little Suite (1958/1962/1968/1983), Night-Song (1976), Port Arthur: In memoriam (1996) [version with oboe]; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn; ABC CLASSICS CD 456 363-2 (1997)

“Peter Sculthorpe was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 29 April 1929 and spent his childhood and adolescence in the nearby village of St Leonards, where his parents, Joshua and Edna Sculthorpe, ran a general store. His great-great- grandfather, Alexander Sculthorpe, of Lambeth in south London, was only sixteen when tried for larceny and sentenced on 29 November 1841 to be transported to Tasmania for a seven-year term. He arrived in Hobart Town aboard the barque Elphinstone on 28 July 1842, under the assumed name of John Thorpe, and may have been interned in the notorious Port Arthur penal colony. Sculthorpe’s grandfather, another Alexander … played violin, musical interests which his son, Joshua, Sculthorpe’s father and a man of sporting inclinations, did not share. Of Sculthorpe himself, the Launceston Examiner noted in 1963: ‘Peter Joshua Sculthorpe is one of the very few Launcestonians who rate a mention in Who’s Who in Australia. This brilliant young man gives as his recreations hunting, fishing and shooting. All are solitary and/or meditative pursuits.’ …”

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Dvořák: Orchestral transcriptions; Legends (Op. 59/B 122); “American“ Suite in A major (Op. 98b/ B 190); Mazurek (Op. 49/B 90); West Australian Symphony Orchestra; Vernon Handley; ABC CLASSICS CD 456 3592 (1997)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Op. 8 Nos 1-4, Concerto in D, “Grosso Mogul” (RV 208), Concerto in A, “Cuckoo” (RV 335); Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Paul Dyer; ABC CLASSICS CD 456 364-2 (1997)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Haydn: Piano Trios; Symphony No 96 in D major, “Miracle”, arr. Salomon; Symphony No 94 in G major, “Surprise”, arr. Salomon; Trio in A major, Op. 70 No 1 (Hob.XV:18); Ensemble of the Classic Era; ABC CLASSICS CD 454 500-2 (1996)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Baroque Orchestral Favourites; Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G major (BWV 1048); Vivaldi: 3 Concertos from L’estro armonico, Op 3; Handel: Water Music - Flute Suite (HWV 350); Handel: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Sololon (HWV 67); Gluck: Dance of the Furies & Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orphée et Euridice (Paris, 1774); Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Paul Dyer; ABC CLASSICS CD 434 720-2 (1992)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Great Soprano Arias II; Marilyn Richardson; Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Kamirski; ABC CLASSICS CD 4764359 (1991; re-released 2011)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Richard Strauss: Orchestral music from the operas; Salome's Dance from Salome (Op. 54), Suite from Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59), Transformation Scene from Daphne (Op. 82), Four Symphonic Interludes from Intermezzo (Op. 72); Sydney SO, Stuart Challender; ABC CLASSICS CD 426480-2 (1990)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Johann Strauss II and family: Polkas and Waltzes; Queensland Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Ponkin; ABC CLASSICS CD 432 2502 (1990)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major Op. 123; Rosamund Illing; Elizabeth Campbell; Christopher Doig; Rodney Macann; Sydney Philharmonia Choir; Sydney Symphony Orchestra; Charles Mackerras; ABC CLASSICS CD 434 7222 (1992)

Graeme Skinner [Booklet notes]
Trumpet Concertos;
Geoffrey Payne; Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; John Hopkins (CD1); Michael Halász (CD2); ABC Classics 476 3531 (1990/96)

Concert reviews, interviews, feature articles (selection)

Graeme Skinner, Obituary, Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014), “A legacy for our musical landscape” The Australian Financial Review (11 August 2014), 26

Graeme Skinner, “Orchestra makes a French connection” [Sydney Symphony, Opera House Concert Hall, 29 April], The Sydney Morning Herald (1 May 2009), 12

“BIZET was only 17 when he wrote the Symphony in C in 1855. Tunefully and skilfully executed by the slimmed-down orchestra, it made for consistently pleasant listening, the enthusiastic athletics of the strings particularly meriting the applause between movements. But with the exception of the exotic arabesque, this was music of scant consequence to the mature Bizet, or to the rest of the program …”

Graeme Skinner (contributor), “Something About Peter” [on Peter Sculthorpe’s 80th birthday], Resonate magazine (Online journal of the Australian Music Centre) (27 April 2009)

“Within days of Peter’s birth, on 29 April 1929, in the May issue of The Australian Musical News, editor Thorold Waters was prompted by the impending release of Australia’s first airmail stamp, valued at threepence, to compare the merits of funding an England–Australia air link, and Victorian Government support for a permanent symphony orchestra. Prophetically, perhaps, he concluded: 'It would be a prouder event in the history of Australia were it to give civilisation one Beethoven than in the end the continent would be able to contemplate through sending a host of Kingsford Smiths into the air'. A half-century later, David Marr could write of Peter with confidence in the National Times: 'He’s the man (some say) who arrived at the right time, his career was as much created by Australia’s wish to have a great composer, as his talent is to be it.’  …”

Graeme Skinner, “Conversations at Sandy Creek: interview with Gordon Kerry” [author of New Classical Music: Composing Australia], Resonate magazine (Online Journal of the Australian Music Centre) (May 2009)

“Outside the pages of Resonate, the argument that our best classical composers deserve a place at 'the creative heart of the nation' is carried on, at best, sotto voce. Yet it’s this argument that Gordon Kerry has taken on at full volume in his just released book New classical music: composing Australia. Fellow composers will, of course, be extremely interested to read what Gordon has said – and what he hasn’t! But it’s worth remembering that composers will not be his primary readership. He writes simply and directly for a non-specialist readership. Obviously, secondary and tertiary music students will read the book, and some seasoned enthusiasts. And, we can only hope, so too might practitioners and consumers in other art forms, whose awareness of their musical opposite numbers of late seems to have been sadly cursory. As a non-composer myself, it struck me how very generously Gordon puts the case for a diverse selection of works by an equally diverse selection of his distinguished mid-generation and senior composing colleagues. Having overheard some of the terrible things composers say about each other behind their backs, it seems doubly generous of Gordon not to indulge in venting his opinions of work that he thinks falls short of the mark. Instead – characteristically, I think – he chooses to talk about (as he says) ‘music I genuinely love’ …”

Graeme Skinner, “In tune with a nation” [Peter Sculthorpe’s 80th birthday], The Australian (27 April 2009), 30

AS Australian as the Opera House“ is a curious analogy for the music of Peter Sculthorpe. But it came to mind, nevertheless, when Lin Utzon recently described her father's imaginative feat as “so beautiful and so, in a way, self-evident“ as to seem part of the natural order. In the same way, it seems extraordinary that Sculthorpe, from his beginnings within our transplanted European classical music tradition, should have invented a music so self-evidently, ineffably, of its place as well …“

Graeme Skinner, “Maxing out on good old-fashioned modernism” [Ensemble Offspring, Carriage Works, 10 December], The Sydney Morning Herald (12 December 2008), 14

“… Into this hieratic procession of old-fashioned modernist artefacts stumbled a commissioned score by the doyen of Sydney maximalists, Michael Smetanin. An Andriessen pupil, he is not averse to huffing and puffing, either. But Swell (2008) was svelte and shapely, its marimba and single-reed colouring gently African - a short, smart work that could be taken anywhere …”

Graeme Skinner, “Wrapping parts to reveal gem that brought Tolstoy to tears” [Australian String Quartet, Angel Place, 21 November], The Sydney Morning Herald (25 November 2008), 22

“Meale has given this finale of his Second Quartet a life of its own, and ABC Classics is about to release the Tasmanian Symphony's recording of the version for orchestral strings. But in the original quartet instrumentation, the final movement, shorn of all that has gone before it, plunges the listener in at the deep end of an intimacy that can sound not quite earned. With that qualification, the ASQ gave the finest performance I've heard of this watershed moment in Australian composition.”

Graeme Skinner, “Poetry unites vocals and instrumentals” [Halcyon, Verbrugghen Hall, 17 October], The Sydney Morning Herald (20 October 2008), 14

“… Poetry stands behind everything of Nigel Butterley's, vocal or instrumental. But though he has a mastery of images, his music can seem diffident, withholding meaning until second or third hearing. Orphei Mysteria breaks constraint and communicates immediately. Forget Eurydice, poet Patricia Excell's Orpheus has his head torn off by Maenads either - take your pick - for forsaking Dionysus for Apollo, or for having sex with boys. The point is that whoever has custody of 'the shell of harmony' pays …”

Graeme Skinner
“Hewitt demonstrates wide appeal of Bach’s 48”
[Angela Hewitt plays Bach, Michael Kieran Harvey plays Messiaen at St. James, 10 and 11 October]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(14 October 2008), 11

“… Messiaen is one of the few composers whose flinty, elemental piano sonorities come alive in such spaces. But even in a padded cell, Harvey's performance would have been as shatteringly good …”

Graeme Skinner
“Long live adventurous and entertaining repertoires”
[Musica Viva Festival]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(10 October 2008), 14

“FIFTY years ago, the late Charles Berg set an ailing Musica Viva back on track to become the high achiever it is today. Now the Berg Family Foundation is underwriting its latest venture, a five-day Sydney festival. Day one was certainly a Big Day Out. At lunchtime, ABC Classic FM concluded another of its more-heat-than-light countdowns, for “Australia's favourite chamber music work“, nothing under 100 years old need apply. Musica Viva artists were on hand to perform the winner live (I'm told Schubert was unavailable for comment) …”

Graeme Skinner
“Glowing restoration to rich early glory”
[Australia Ensemble, Clancy Auditorium, 13 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(16 September 2008), 9

The one program miscalculation was Somei Satoh's Uzu (Vortex), for flute, clarinet, harp, piano and percussion. A Japanese composer popularised in the US, Satoh belongs to the soft new-age end of American minimalism. The sparely textured meditative modalism of Uzu is fairly typical of Satoh's better works, of which this is perhaps not one. And with the cleverness of Goossens and Bliss on either side, Uzu was not so much calm, as becalmed.”

Graeme Skinner
“Crime Time”
[Sydney Symphony at the Movies, Opera House Concert Hall, 11 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(13-14 September 2008)

“… after almost two hours a certain sameness began to impress itself. How extraordinary, for instance, that so many Oscar-winning composers should revert to the same sinister ostinatos when scoring for harp. More surprising was how few good melodies we had heard until Ron Goodwin's theme for the 1960s Miss Marple films and John Barry's for James Bond. Could it be that, unlike these two Englishmen, American film composers, for all their scene-setting inventiveness, just cannot write a tune?“

Graeme Skinner
“There’s plenty to savour in this musical feast of Italy”
[Sydney Symphony, Mozart in the City, City Recital Hall, 14 August]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(18 August 2008), 12

“THIS was the Sydney Symphony's first performance of Rossini's juvenile First String Sonata. Whereas 10 years ago they would probably have beefed it up orchestrally with multiple strings, on Thursday night four principals, led by the concertmaster, Michael Dauth, performed this neat little work by the 12-year-old Rossini in original Italian quartet format (two violins, cello and double bass). Since the program was titled Mozart in Italy, yet contained nothing Mozart composed there, the Mozartian mini-cadenzas in Rossini's first movement must have been meant to provide the missing Italian link …”

Graeme Skinner
“Formula plays on for 100
[Kammer Ensemble, Sydney Conservatorium, 8 August]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(12 August 2008), 13

“… The problem of adding meaningful new work to the post-tonal tradition has been Carter's constant obsession, and he has shared the hard slog and occasional battering with his performers and listeners, as the title of this tribute - Get Cartered - registered right up front. Carter protests that his music is not difficult, and it's true it gets its point across eventually. But his musical solutions are remarkable for aspiring to the rarefied elegance of a mathematical proof, as in the brief Canon For 4, which wrings from furious complexity music that seems to flow effortlessly …”

Graeme Skinner
“Baroque underdogs have their night”
[Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, City Recital Hall, 26 July]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(29 July 2008), 16

“Bassoonists are the perpetual bridesmaids of orchestral music: at best underexposed and undervalued, at worst simply buried. But Jane Gower has circumvented her ignominious fate by carving out a quirky niche as one of the most sought-after exponents of that double oddity, the period bassoon. As soloist in one of Vivaldi's bassoon concertos … Gower showed why she is much in demand for her stylistic panache and technical capacity on a frankly unforgiving and occasionally ungainly instrument …”

Graeme Skinner
“Fearless voices venture into the darkly sacred”
[The Red Tree, Australian Chamber Orchestra, City Recital Hall, 15 July]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(17 July 2008), 18

“… The second half was not much less ascetic in tone than the first, with The Red Tree a musical counterpoint to images from Tan's illustrated book of the same name. A seven-movement collaboration between composer-lyricist Michael Yezerski and Tognetti, it set texts in English, Hebrew and Finnish. Delivering this litany of mostly hard sayings, the fearless youngsters of Gondwana Voices came across as much more than just the beguiling symbols of innocence to which children's choirs are so often reduced …”

Graeme Skinner
“A power play between grace and brutality”
[TaikOz and the Shakuhachi, City Recital Hall, 4 July]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(8 July 2008), 12

IT WILL cause no road closures nor is it offering any miracle-working human remains. Yet the start of Sydney's spiritual and musical special event - WSF08 - was anything but unobtrusive. But then the headliner for the opening concert of the World Shakuhachi Festival Sydney 2008 was Sydney's TaikOz … I wonder how we Westerners got stuck with that dodo, the metal concert flute, when the Japanese have this bamboo miracle to hand …”

Graeme Skinner
“Banjo and beyond, with extra swagger”
[The Song Company, Sydney Conservatorium, 2 July]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(4 July 2008), 14

“IN 1916 at the new Sydney Conservatorium, Madame Verbrugghen, the wife of its Belgian director, reportedly lamented that Australia was a nation sadly bereft of folksongs. Close to a century later in the same venue, the Song Company and its Belgian-born director, Roland Peelman, devoted an entire program to demonstrating Australia is folksong-less no more. Despite colonial examples such as Bound For Botany Bay, Madame Verbrugghen was not entirely wrong. She had never heard of Click Go The Shears or Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda, which the Song Company reminded us was only written in 1895 and did not have an impact until the 1920s. Or Jack O'Hagan’s 1922 Along The Road To Gundagai, popularised by Peter Dawson. These last two are listed on the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry - along with Gordon Parsons's A Pub With No Beer, which entered our national consciousness thanks to Slim Dusty in 1957. Most Australian perennials have been written by someone at some time, but thanks to the gramophone record they are now considered common property …”

Graeme Skinner
“Maestro’s work a heavenly voyage”
[Gianluig Gelmetti’s Song of Life, Sydney Symphony, Opera House Concert Hall, 25 June]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(27 June 2008), 17

“… Stark and spare, Gelmetti's cantata is a work of profound intelligence and sombre magnitude. At the peaks and troughs of what the composer intended to be ‘a pretext for telling this voyage through life’, a stratospheric vocal and orchestral keening was underpinned with a deep bell-like tolling bass. The music was dissonant but neither inhuman nor always severely serious. The sinuous arabesques of three solo oboists, placed high above the chorus, occasionally suggested a celestial Andrews Sisters as might have been conjured up by Umberto Eco …”

Graeme Skinner
“Drifting to a compelling something”
[Sydney Symphony, Matthew Hindson premiere, Opera House Concert Hall, 2 April]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(7 April 2008), 11

“… In the final section Barton’s didgeridoo harmonics sliced through the full orchestra to scintillating effect. Nor was there any doubt, on the audience’s part, that the new work (commissioned as a result of private, not public, philanthropy) also commemorated a massacre by Queensland troopers of 'as many as 200' Kalkadungu. Even the furious windschuttling of the full roll-call of Howard historians could not have dampened the standing ovation that the orchestra, the conductor Richard Gill, and the creators rightfully received at the end.”

Graeme Skinner
“Cheeky blend strikes a chord for English chill”
[Katie Noonan, Australian Chamber Orchestra “Sublime”, City Recital Hall, 15 March]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(18 March 2008), 14

“… It was certainly not ‘sublime’, however, and the ACO marketeers’ tricksy tag for what was otherwise a cheeky fusion program of English music succeeded (apart perhaps from selling tickets) only in selling the repertoire and the performers short … But if you did want a single label to link the likes of Vaughan Williams with Sting, why not ‘English chill’?”

Graeme Skinner
“Brief encounters with a modest star”
[José Carreras, Opera House Concert Hall, 4 January]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(8 January 2008), 28.

“… Carreras admits that his voice lacks the elasticity it once had, but perhaps the more obvious absence on Friday night was his former staying power. Though few could have felt short-changed by the varied and well-conceived program constructed around him, Carreras’s contribution amounted to what was virtually a string of encores, mostly brief, or at least short-breathed. Moreover, it seemed to me to be an act of supreme generosity for the veteran to allow himself to be so readily upstaged, as he briefly was, by the sheer technical command of his young Australian associate artist, the soprano Emma Matthews …”

Graeme Skinner
“The bold and the beautiful”
[Dimitri Ashkenazy with Sydney Omega Ensemble City Recital Hall, October 31]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(3 November 2007), 23

“… Like Prokofiev's Quintet 80 years earlier, Matthew Hindson's brand-new wind quintet is partly a product of a desire to crosspollinate high-art music with elements of popular culture. Light Music was not, in the event, so much reminiscent of BBC radio light music of the 1940s and '50s (served by a whole slew of expat Australian composers, including Arthur Benjamin and John Carmichael) as of more recent trends, apparent especially in the resourcefully off-beat first movement Strobe …”

Graeme Skinner
“Choral powerhouse delivers commanding royal eulogy”
[Choir of Westminster Abbey, Opera House Concert Hall, 18 October]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(22 October 2007), 18

“THERE'S a lesson to be learnt from the way societies commemorate their dead princesses. The Memorial Ode for Queen Alexandra, a 1932 musico-poetic collaboration by the then British national laureates Edward Elgar and John Masefield, and here being given its much-belated local premiere, took us back to an era before love of the monarchy was hijacked by the lunatic right, when sincere sentiment and a certain down-homeliness were the royal eulogist’s part and parcel. Added on to Elgar’s great wartime anthem, Give unto the Lord, with its seismic harmonic shocks, the Ode was a timely reminder that even the Edwardians possessed a more acute sense of the world around them than we true “moderns“ are usually willing to credit. Compare John Tavener's Song for Athene, chosen in 1997 to conclude Princess Diana's funeral - not even written for her. Yet being enmeshed again in its seminal drones and erotically sustained descants is like being ushered into the presence of a god …”

Graeme Skinner
“Untried melody scores big on style”
[Roger Muraro, Sydney Symphony, City Recital Hall, 27 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(29 September 2007), 21

“IT HAS taken the Sydney Symphony all of its 75 years to get round to one of Haydn's earliest symphonies, Le Matin, the sixth (out of 104), and it was worth the wait, in at least two respects. The music, more chamber than symphonic, has a quizzical, untried quality, refreshingly at odds with the later Haydn's characteristic self-assurance. The performance, too, was less predictably symphonic than it would have been during most of the past 75 years …”

Graeme Skinner
“Gallic hue bodes well for Mozart”
[Roger Muraro, City Recital Hall, 24 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(26 September 2007), 17

“… The publicity promised performances with Muraro’s ‘trademark panache’, though they were, in fact, delivered with a minimum of the swagger this might denote. His playing was elegant, economical in gesture and compelling in attention to detail. Especially memorable was the painterly voicing of distant chords in the closing moments of the first and last pieces of Albeniz's Suite Iberia Book I …”

Graeme Skinner
“In other worlds, but far from lost”
[Sydney Symphony, Meet the Music, Opera House Concert Hall, September 12]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(15 September 2007), 27

“… The pianist Stephanie McCallum, for whom the Dances was written in 2000, gestured towards another Kats-Chernin title, Variations in a Serious Black Dress, in appearing thus attired. Her strikingly amplified solo gambits led the orchestra through a fairytale-like nether world, magical and macabre. The score is equally strong musically and imaginatively. The second movement is an energised etude on repeated notes, whimsically called ‘Dance of the Moral Finger’, the calm solo interlude at the heart of the storm a ‘Dance of Smoothing the Edges’. Far from being displaced, the personalities of soloist and composer had, by the end, left indelible impressions …

Graeme Skinner
“As if Schubert and co were in the house”
[Alexander Gavrylyuk, City Recital Hall, March 30]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(2 April 2007, 14

“…Gavrylyuk played Rachmaninov as if it were his birthright to do so, and at moments of maximum intensity, hunched over the keyboard, seemed almost to be impersonating the composer (Stravinsky described his former classmate as “a six-and-a-half-foot scowl“). Gavrylyuk’s intelligent and aware readings brought out the still challenging modernity of this Russian revolutionary era set (perched neatly between Debussy and Shostakovich), in which he reserved his most remarkable displays of intuition to the final four pieces, especially the ‘Lento lugubre’ …”

Graeme Skinner
“Bigger than Mozart, yet wonderfully neat and elegant”
[Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, 23 February]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(28 February 2007), 14

“THE Brandenburg Orchestra's new Mozart fortepiano proved to be a captivating addition to its instruments in Friday's concert. A replica of the Walter instrument Mozart acquired in the early 1780s (now in the Salzburg Mozarthaus), it is such a delicate piece of furniture that it was almost an act of sacrilege when soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout (not as compact a man physically as Mozart) lowered himself onto its petite matching french-polished stool. What issued from under his fists, however, was as far removed from violence as can be imagined, and his reading of Mozart's C-major concerto (K467) was the occasion for some of the neatest piano playing yet heard in 17 years of Brandenburg concerts. Elegant it might have been, but it was also, for a medium-sized concert hall, perilously sotto voce, especially for modern ears attuned to the detail of digital recording ...”

Graeme Skinner
“Sparks of promise blown away by the wind”
[Russian Fire and Fury, Sydney Symphony Opera House Concert Hall, 16 November]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(18 November 2006), 23

“DESPITE its title, this all-Russian orchestral program was a little short on fire and fury. Lyricism, too, notably so in Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture, where its sinuous Orthodox chants came across as disappointingly wooden …”

Graeme Skinner
“Lovers wilt, performers soar”
[Puccini, La Rondine, Sydney Symphony, 20 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(23 September 2006), 23

“… The music is mostly through-composed, unwinding in what seems at times like a continuous skein of beautiful sound, an impression enhanced by the luxury of having the large orchestra on stage with the principals rather than locked away in the pit as usual … Though a concert performance, the occasion developed some theatre all of its own when Gelmetti, momentarily more ringmaster than conductor, whipped the orchestra and soloists to the act-two climax …”

Graeme Skinner
“Several heroes on evening of delights”
[Handel’s Heroes; Brandenburg Orchestra, 15 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(20 September 2006), 12

“… Marshall McGuire's playing in Handel's Opus 4, No. 6 harp concerto was exquisite. Some of the most pleasurable and variegated listening was in two of Handel's Opus 6 grand concertos for the whole band. Lucinda Moon, as leader and violin soloist in these works, was also a real hero of the concert.”

Graeme Skinner
“Even the accordion gets an outing”
[Australia Ensemble, 9 September]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(13 September 2006), 13

“… Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 1 remains a sort of musical museum piece, a catalogue of modernist possibilities as conceived in the Germany of 1922. It is fascinating and witty for all that, and its antic circus sounds and military band spoofs (pre-echoes of Cabaret) are not technically undemanding in performance. At least there was not the faintest whiff of formaldehyde in this latest showing, with Dene Olding conducting an ensemble of 12, notable for the egalitarian inclusion, in such hallowed halls, of an accordion.”  

Graeme Skinner
“Stilettos aside, this was a humanly scaled reading”
[VERDI’S REQUIEM Concert Hall, Opera House, January 22]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(24 January 2001), 17

“THERE HAVE been more spectacular Verdi requiems. But this performance from Opera Australia for the Sydney Festival bypassed stale millennial hype and delivered a fresh, well-rounded, humanly scaled reading … Verdi’s score is customarily criticised for being more operatic than religious, but Simone Young put a convincing case that it can be both, and more. There was something supremely theological about the portentous choral opening, with its faux fugue for the soloists, just as the final pages of the sepulchral Libera me were chillingly earthy … Young, out of the pit and in full view of the audience for once, revealed herself as an unaffected, straightforward conductor, who delivered a performance more driven by musicality than personality. I liked it. But I think there were some in the audience, clearly eager to respond even more warmly, who might have welcomed a little extra in the way of traditional podium histrionics. Young did throw them one fillip. During the final applause, an elderly woman near me, pointing excitedly to the conductor's footwear, said to her companion: ‘Just look at those shoes!’ Yes, it will be a while before we see maestro de Waart conducting for 90 minutes in 15 centimetre stilettos.”

Graeme Skinner
“Tables turned, Freud was a giggle”
[NIGHT AND DREAMS: THE, DEATH OF SIGMUND FREUD The Studio, Opera House January 19]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(22 January 2001), 13

“… Night and Dreams belongs to the ‘one-man’ show genre. Gerald English, a veteran musical artist totally at home with monologue, is now senior enough to slip into the role of Freud without unduly stretching our (or his) imagination. He looks the part, and acts it, too … Musically, Ford calls this ‘chamber opera’, but what we have is a one-hander play with songs … I suspect that, ten years ago, Ford would have composed the score far more densely. Now the instrumental component is not so in-your-face, but issues, via loudspeaker, from Freud's own dreamworld. ‘One of my sisters was musical,’ the old man recalls early on. ‘She played the piano that dreadful noise, over and over!’ …”

Graeme Skinner
“Moment of savagery sells itself”
[IL TROVATORE Sydney Opera House, Opera Theatre, January 9]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(12 January 2001), 5

“THIS NEW Il Trovatore is the second of three great middle-period Verdi operas - with Rigoletto opening last week and La Traviata tomorrow - that all but monopolise Opera Australia’s program for January, the month that marks the centenary of the composer's death. I say new because, though strictly a ‘restudied’ production, visually dominated by Sidney Nolan’s extraordinary painted gauzes from 1983, it is deftly intercut with director Talya Masel's intriguingly simple and engaging new staging. If there is any impediment in coming fresh to Il Trovatore it is a convoluted plot, but Masel's elegant stage business uses well-worked recurring images, some from the spirit world, to achieve dramatic clarity. Verdi's abundantly tuneful score helps too, of course. Yet when it comes to another of the opera’s occasionally perceived impediments - a certain shallowness in some of its characterisation - even Verdi did not give Ian Vayne, as the Count, quite enough material to ‘act’ with, except perhaps in his Act IV scene with Leonora, which was also gorgeously sung …”

Graeme Skinner
“Reflected melodies”
[Feature article on composer Andrew Ford]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(25 August 1993), 17

“ANDREW Ford lives in dread of being asked what he does for a living. It’s not that he is chronically unemployed. Nor that being a composer, which is his answer to the problems of financial survival, is so embarrassing in itself. No, it's the next question – ‘So what’s your music like?’ - which leaves him floundering every time. ‘Of course, even if I had an easy answer, which I don't, I wouldn’t have a chance to get it out … Next thing you know you’re hearing how much they wish they’d kept up those piano lessons … So I start talking about the weather, which is a relief for both of us’ …”  

Graeme Skinner
“Future legend”
[Book review, of Wendy’ Beckett’s biography of Peggy Glanville-Hicks]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(29 May 1992), Spectrum 41

“PEGGY Glanville-Hicks must have known she would provide her first biographer, Wendy Beckett, with one of the most fascinating stories ever likely to come out of musical Australia. For a start her tale was starred with luminaries: Nadia Boulanger, Lawrence Durrell, Yehudi Menuhin, Anais Nin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Thomas Mann, John Cage, Paul Bowles, Thomas Beecham, Aaron Copland, even Errol Flynn. All these - men mostly - were teachers, friends or, even more importantly, working colleagues. Then there was her private life: a succession of romantic attachments to homosexual men, including a destructive marriage to the now-forgotten English composer, Stanley Bate; battles for independence, for validation as a woman in a man’s domain; a life-threatening brain tumour and its aftermath. And this was before she got to her own achievements as a composer of considerable originality, as an opinionated and often waspish critic and a talented organiser with - as is so often the case - greater capacity for advancing the careers of her friends than benefiting herself …”

Graeme Skinner
“Maxi and the mini”
[Synergy], The Sydney Morning Herald (23 September 1991), 14

“STEVE REICH’S classic Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) was a nicely neutral starting point for an evening entitled Minimalism isn't Dead ... It Just Smells Funny. It’s one of those early minimalist pieces which proponents of the New Simplicity (aka Minimalists) and New Complexity (Maximalists) alike can respect and enjoy. Synergy, all in black, gave it a po-faced and professional reading, sitting around a semi-circle of music stands, and looking for all the world like a down-at-heel string quintet which has had to pawn its Strads for rhythm sticks. The recession mentality might be seen to have continued in an early work by John Cage for toy piano, and the same composer's songs for mezzo and an accompanist who is restricted to making percussive sounds on a piano lid. But this was just minimalism at its conceptually purist, as seldom encountered these days. In the event, Michael Smetanin's new work (from which the whole concept took its title) showed just how artificial the apparent divide between the“mini-“ and “maxi-“ in music has become. Smetanin, whose ideological credentials as one of Sydney's maximalist ‘heavy boys’ are irreproachable, nevertheless gave credit in a brief verbal introduction to his Dutch teacher, Louis Andriessen, for being ‘a minimalist with intellectual integrity’. And his piece, too, fell wonderfully between the two stools …”

Graeme Skinner
“Kronos’s impressive struggle against consumer resistance”
The Sydney Morning Herald ((18 September 1991), 12

“TOO MUCH has been written about the Kronos’s capacity to shock traditional serious chamber music audiences. This concert proved that they are just as capable of disconcerting their newer, younger audiences. Their third encore was a case in point.  Instead of another cute, designer-jazz arrangement - which the largely pony-tailed and '70s-retro audience clearly ‘thought’ it wanted - leader David Harrington launched into 10 minutes of the most sombre music in Peter Sculthorpe’s Irkanda IV …”  

Graeme Skinner
“After the ebb, the tide always turns”
[Feature article on Nigel Butterley’s From Sorrowing Earth]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(16 August 1991), Spectrum 41

“… In terms of public profile, Butterley’s career has not matched that of his more successful contemporaries, Sculthorpe and Meale, whose music has proved either more appealing to mass audiences, or been seen to be more attuned to dominant aesthetic discourses. Of the three, Butterley alone has no publisher, and therefore no effective international representation. And yet - almost, one feels, by way of compensation - colleagues and senior critics have become almost habitually extravagant in their praise of his music. Not surprisingly, Butterley has come to know the sting in the tail of words like ‘integrity’ and ‘vision’ …”

Graeme Skinner
“Music’s pale rider: a great void filled, he then left town”
[Feature article on the late Paul Lowin]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(29 July 1991), 12

“WHAT SORT of Australian leaves a large sum in his will to establish a prize for musical composition? In the case of Paul Lowin, it is not an easy question to answer. Nor is the advance publicity for the forthcoming inaugural Paul Lowin Prize (worth over $65,000) of much help. His trustees admittedly have done their best. None of them knew Lowin personally. He died 30 years ago this October, and many of those who might have remembered him are now themselves dead. So far, a thorough search has failed to locate even a single photograph of the donor. But to describe him merely as a ‘passionate lover of music’ seems to go no way at all towards fleshing out a character whose legacy is about to make him the ‘Archibald’ of Australian music …”

Graeme Skinner
“British cellist’s body blow to cultural cringe”
 [Interview with Raphael Wallfisch]
The Sydney Morning Herald
(12 June 1990), 16

“… ‘Here the programming is fabulous, he insists. Where else could you see a program like the one we are doing here in Sydney (tonight)?’ … American composer Del Tredici’s Tattoo and, of course, the new cello concerto composed by Richard Mills especially for him …Unusual too, apparently, is the fact that the series in which Wallfisch will appear attracts an almost capacity audience, including a large number of secondary-school students. As part of a successful education program, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra provides background material on the music performed, for use in the school curriculum, which - according to Wallfisch - means that many of these young people will be better prepared for the new concerto than the older members of the audience. ‘I was terribly impressed with the education kit that goes with the concert. I learnt a lot from it myself. It's a wonderful way to introduce young people to new music, and does so much to break down the barriers of prejudice against composers of our own time.’ …"

© Graeme Skinner 2015