It is with deep sadness that Faber Music announces the death of Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. Sculthorpe, Australia’s foremost composer since Percy Grainger, died on the morning of Friday 8 August in Sydney aged 85.
The recipient of Australia’s highest honours, Sculthorpe inspired a whole generation of composers whose music is now internationally known. His most defining quality has been his ability to somehow create the feeling of the Australian landscape in his music. This was achieved in part by his study of Aboriginal music, as well as his deep love of landscape and his concern with issues of conservation and ecology.
Sally Cavender, Vice-Chairman of Faber Music, writes:
“Peter joined Faber Music in 1965, our founding year, and our relationship with him throughout these 49 years has been a joy and a pleasure from that time until now. His music is absolutely distinct, individual and lyrical, and expresses the warmth and simplicity of the man himself. His loss will be felt by his many pupils who now number amongst Australia’s most successful composers, and by Australian musical culture at large which he so profoundly influenced and reflected.”
Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1929, Sculthorpe was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School, the University of Melbourne, and Wadham College, Oxford. He was Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, where he began teaching in 1964, a Harkness Fellow at Yale University, USA, and a visiting professor at Sussex University, UK, in 1971-72.
Sculthorpe’s rich and varied compositions (including an astonishing eighteen string quartets) are regularly performed and recorded throughout the world. His preoccupation with Australian landscape, environmental issues and the frailty of the human condition can be heard in works such as Earth Cry (1986) and Requiem (2003). The latter grew from his concern about women and children killed in the war in Iraq. While his String Quartet No. 16 (2006) addressed the plight of asylum-seekers in Australia detention centres, his String Quartet No. 18 (2010) was devoted to climate change. His output relates closely to the unique social and physical characteristics of Australia, and to the cultures of its Pacific Basin neighbours. Influences include much of the music of Asia - especially that of Japan and Indonesia – and, in recent years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island music and culture.
Appointed OBE in 1977 and AO in 1990, Sculthorpe was elected one of Australia’s Living National Treasures in 1998 and was recipient of a Silver Jubilee Medal. An Honorary Foreign Life Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he held honorary doctorates from the universities of Tasmania, Melbourne, Sussex, Griffith and Sydney and in 2011 was awarded the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica by Juan Carlos I of Spain.