'A major talent ... someone capable of breaking genuinely new ground and getting things to grow in it.' The Australian
One of Australia’s most accomplished composers, Carl Vine AO is respected internationally for his unique, tuneful and immaculately crafted body of work that includes eight symphonies, thirteen concertos, music for film, television and theatre, electronic music and numerous chamber works. His piano music is performed frequently around the world. Although primarily a composer of modern 'classical' music he has undertaken tasks as diverse as arranging the Australian National Anthem and writing music featured at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Born in Perth Western Australia in 1954, Vine studied Physics and later Music at the University of Western Australia (studying piano with Stephen Dornan and composition with John Exton). Moving to Sydney in 1975 he worked as a freelance pianist and composer with a wide variety of ensembles and dance companies and was resident composer at the Sydney Dance Company (1978) and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre (1979). He has written 25 scores for dance to date, including Poppy a 90-minute work for Graeme Murphy’s celebrated ballet on Jean Cocteau. In 1979 he co-founded the award-winning contemporary music ensemble Flederman.
After an initial enthusiasm for the music of avant-garde (Stockhausen and Carter were major influences) and a time lecturing in electronic music composition at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane (1980 to 1982), in the mid-1980s Vine began to seek a novel way of writing. Vine’s refreshed style, as it emerged, was just as rigorous as that which preceded it; complex rhythms are built into rich, kinetic textures and set alongside an austere lyricism which is even more moving in its restraint.
Vine’s most acclaimed works include Mythologia, First Piano Sonata and his Choral Symphony (No. 6). Notable commissions include Ring out, Wild Bells – a generous and rhythmically vital setting of Tennyson premiered in 2012 by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge as part of their Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
A skilled pianist himself, Vine has created a body of piano music which occupies a significant place in the contemporary repertoire through its scintillating command of sonority and space as well as its versatility and wit. His First Piano Sonata (1990) still features regularly at piano competitions around the world. His refreshingly direct Second Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Sydney Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestras, premiered in 2012. His concerto for two pianos, Implacable Gifts, was premiered by Kathryn Stott and Piers Lane with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in 2018 and his Concerto for Piano Four Hands, Zofomorphosis, was premiered by the Zofo Duo at the Grant Park Festival, Chicago, in 2022.
Vine’s extensive discography is an impressive catalogue of the many world-renowned advocates who have made Vine’s music their own. These include: the London Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding (Descent), Steven Isserlis (Inner World), the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Sharon Bezaly (the flute concerto Pipe Dreams) and the Takács Quartet (String Quartet No. 4). The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Vine’s first six symphonies are available on the ABC Classics label and much of his chamber music is surveyed on three discs from Tall Poppies Records.
Vine was Artistic Director of both Musica Viva Australia (2000–19), and the Huntington Estate Music Festival (2006–2019). In 2005 he was awarded the Don Banks Award for outstanding contribution to Australian Music – the highest accolade the Australian Council can offer a musician. Appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Vine lives in Sydney where since 2014 he has been Senior Lecturer in Composition at the Conservatorium of Music.
Recent works include a Fourth Piano Sonata, Five Intermezzi for solo piano, a Trombone Concerto, Five Hallucinations, for the Chicago and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, and an Eighth Symphony, The Enchanted Loom, written as the culmination of his time as 2018 Composer in Residence with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. His latest album, featuring this work plus Concerto for Orchestra (2014), won the 2022 Aria Award for Best Classical Album.