20 November 2012
Lawrence Whiffin (1930-2012)
Composer and pianist Lawrence Whiffin passed away in Melbourne on 18 November 2012 at the age of 82.
Born in Melbourne in 1930, Whiffin studied piano and composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium before moving to Paris to pursue studies in piano. In the late 1950s, Whiffin worked in France as pianist, repetiteur and conductor, and joined Diego Masson's group of musicians dedicated to the performance of new music. In the 1960s, he worked in Rome as arranger for the RCA recording studios, including work for well-known Italian and international singers, from Bruno Filippini to Paul Anka and Jose Feliciano. Whiffin's colleagues in Rome included Ennio Morricone, then at the early stages of his career as a famous film composer.
Whiffin's interest in contemporary concert music led him to write incidental music for two records for RCA. In 1970s, Whiffin returned to Paris to work for Pathé Cinema, providing sound effects and music for newsreels, documentaries and film. He also rejoined Diego Masson's group in performances of works by Ligeti, Berio, Globokar and Michel Puig.
In 1976, at Keith Humble's invitation, Whiffin returned to Australia to take up a teaching post in the Music Department at Melbourne's La Trobe University, lecturing in theory and composition. He went on to receive commissions from music organisations, and continued his career as a pianist promoting contemporary music. He worked at La Trobe until his retirement in 1995, including several years as chairperson of the Music Department.
After his retirement, Whiffin concentrated on composing, completing his large-scale work Murchitt: a daydream (1997) for nine instruments and narrator, based on William Henderson's prose poem. The work won the AMC Award for the Best Australian Composition of the Year. In 2002 his Concerto for violin and five instruments (1999) won the Albert Maggs Award.
Whiffin's output also includes numerous works for solo piano, chamber and vocal music, and a String Quartet (1992). Among his last works is Piano Sonata no. 3 (2011), recently released on a CD from pianist Michael Kieran Harvey.
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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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