Tributes flow for Sculthorpe

Launceston-born composer Peter Sculthorpe has died in Sydney at the age of 85 after a long illness.
Launceston-born composer Peter Sculthorpe has died in Sydney at the age of 85 after a long illness.

LAUNCESTON-BORN classical composer Peter Sculthorpe died yesterday at Sydney’s Wolper Jewish Hospital. He was 85.

The highly acclaimed composer succumbed to a long illness yesterday morning, leaving the legacy of a career that spanned more than six decades.

In a joint media release, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Arts Minister George Brandis hailed Sculthorpe as a ‘‘musical giant’’.

‘‘Today, Australia lost a musical giant with the passing of composer Peter Sculthorpe, AO, OBE,’’ they said.

‘‘From his humble beginnings in Tasmania, Peter Sculthorpe studied in post-war London, but returned to Australia and changed the country’s music landscape forever.

‘‘Peter Sculthorpe sought to render into music the earth, sea, sky and history of our country.

‘‘He influenced audiences and musicians around the world, and he was a deeply respected mentor and teacher to subsequent generations of composers.’’

It was at Melbourne University that Sculthorpe, an Invermay man, began his compositional studies before moving to further his learning post-war at Wadham College, Oxford.

Sculthorpe returned to Australia in 1961 when he was 32, the year in which he would release Irkanda IV — widely regarded as one of his first career defining compositions.

In 1963, Sculthorpe would assume the position of lecturer in composition at University of Sydney’s music department.

Recognition of his works became widespread as his reputation and ability grew with pieces such as Rites of Passage, 1973, Kakadu, 1988, and Memento Mori, 1993.

Sculthorpe held honorary doctorates from the universities of Tasmania, Sydney, Melbourne, Sussex and Griffith, and was an Officer of the Order of Australia and the British Empire.

He was named a National Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia in 1998, and received the Sir Bernard Heinze award for outstanding services to Australian music in 1994.

University of Tasmania vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen said Sculthorpe’s influence made a significant contribution to the cultural richness of Tasmania.

‘‘The university was always pleased to welcome him and host him when he returned to Tasmania,’’ Professor Rathjen said.

‘‘We offer our condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed, though he will live on for many years through the music he created.’’

Sydney Conservatorium of Music dean Karl Kramer said Sculthorpe was the country’s best-known composer and the international figurehead of Australian composition.


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