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The Sydney Symphony Orchestra will dedicate all of their concerts next week to the memory of composer Peter Sculthorpe who died yesterday aged 85.
In a statement, Managing Director Rory Jeffes paid tribute. “Yesterday we said farewell to one of Australia’s greatest ever composers,” he said. “Peter Sculthorpe was a prolific composer and respected cultural ambassador with a unique talent for conveying the spirit and landscape of this country through his music.”
“As a way to honour Sculthorpe and the contribution he made to Australian cultural life, our Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson and the musicians of the SSO will perform Sculthorpe’s Memento Mori as an encore at each of our performances this coming week at the Sydney Opera House. The SSO will also dedicate these three concerts to Sculthorpe.”
Reflecting on the orchestra’s ties to a composer whose sound seems to define so much of Australian music over the last 60 years, Jeffes said: “The relationship between the SSO and Peter Sculthorpe ran deep and spanned some 50 years. It began when Sir Bernard Heinze invited him to write Sun Music I for the orchestra to perform at the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival in London as part of its first international tour. Subsequently we premiered numerous works by Sculthorpe, including Sun Music II, Love 200, Mangrove and From Uluru.”
“Sculthorpe accompanied the orchestra on tour in 1988, attending the performance of his Mangrove at Carnegie Hall. Orchestral works such as Kakadu and Earth Cry are also important parts of our repertoire, and all three were included in the SSO’s landmark recording of Sculthorpe’s music in the late 1980s. In April 1989, the SSO celebrated Sculthorpe’s 60th birthday with a special gala concert conducted by Stuart Challender. The program – chosen in part by the composer – featured Irkanda IV and the Australian premiere of Kakadu, together with music by Takemitsu (whom Sculthorpe had long esteemed), Grainger and Varèse. More recently, in 2009, we celebrated his 80th birthday with memorable performances of Small Town and Kakadu.”
Echoing the feeling expressed by so many over the last 24 hours, Jeffes concluded by saying: “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.”