4 May 2012
Felix Werder (1922-2012)
Composer Felix Werder has died in Melbourne on 3rd May 2012 at the age of 90.
Werder was born in Berlin in 1922, fled Germany in 1935 and arrived in Australia on the ship Dunera with his father in 1940, only to be interned as a political prisoner for four years. It was during this time that he wrote many of his early compositions.
A significant figure in Australia's musical avant-garde, Werder's music was influenced by his German and Jewish heritage. His family had been a part of Schoenberg's musical circle, and from the age of eight Werder had acted as copyist for his father, formerly a cantor and liturgical composer at a leading Berlin synagogue.
Werder's early, twelve-tone music gave way to a more improvisatory, collage-like style. His often virtuosic works range from chamber music to compositions for orchestra and music theatre. Werder went on composing until very recently, and his 90th birthday concert in February included several premieres. According to a composer colleague, Warren Burt, Werder had been refining his technique and 'getting closer to what one might term "pure music", a product of intense reflection and personal expression'.
During his long career Felix Werder was also active as educator and music critic. In 2002, University of Melbourne awarded him the degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa). He was also a recipient of the Order of Australia for services to music (1976).
Listen to Felix Werder's Requiem in its
entirety (ABC Classic FM - classic/amp)
2-part oral history interview with Felix Werder - interviewed by Ruth Lee Martin in 2001 (National Library of Australia, Oral History collection)
'Happy birthday Felix!' - New Music Up Late (ABC Classic FM)
© Australian Music Centre (2012) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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The Australian Music Centre connects people around the world to Australian composers and sound artists. By facilitating the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these creative artists, it aims to increase their profile and the sustainability of their art form. Established in 1974, the AMC is now the leading provider of information, resources, materials and products relating to Australian new music.
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