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Edwin Carr (1926-2003) : Represented Artist

Photo of Edwin Carr

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in August 1926, Edwin James Nairn Carr studied music at Otago and Auckland Universities from 1944 to 1947, then travelled to London on a New Zealand Government Bursary to study composition with Benjamin Frankel at the Guildhall School of Music. He studied under Frankel until 1953, during which period his Mardi Gras Overture won first prize at the Auckland Festival (adjudicated by Eugene Goossens), and his Three Dances and Epilogue for two pianos won him the Overseas League Medal. A British Council Scholarship awarded in 1954 allowed Carr to study with Petrassi at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and another scholarship awarded in the same year enabled him to attend the Accademia di Chigiana at Siena.

In 1955 he was appointed Musical Director of Il Nuovo Balletto d'Italia for their extensive tour of Italy and composed two ballets for this company, Electra and Caccati dal Paradiso. Another British Council Scholarship, awarded in 1957, enabled Carr to study with Carl Orff at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich for a brief period.

Carr returned to New Zealand in 1958, where he completed commissions for the NZ Broadcasting Orchestra, the NZ Chamber Music Federation and the Auckland Association of Organists. He lectured at Victoria University in Wellington in 1959, and in 1960 travelled to Sydney where he worked for the ABC. He did not remain in Australia long, however, and later that year returned to England to teach at the Suffolk Rural Music School and at Civic College, Ipswich. He continued his studies with Benjamin Frankel in 1961 and 1962, and spent most of the Sixties in England, where a number of his compositions were performed.

In 1970 Carr received a commission from the British Arts Council for Nastasya, a three-act opera based on Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, and returned to New Zealand to work with librettist Edward Hill in Wellington. This opera was completed in England the following year. In 1973 he took up a two-year Mozart Fellowship at Otago University, Dunedin (NZ).

Carr moved to Sydney in 1975 and became a lecturer at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, as well as teaching piano and composition privately. He continued to compose, receiving commissions from the New Zealand Embassy in Bonn, Musica Viva, Radio NZ, the Australia Council and Sally Mays. He was also commissioned by Alberts to write a harmony book for students in 1976.

Edwin Carr returned to New Zealand in 1984. He continued to teach until the end of 1987, thereafter devoting himself to composition. Carr's works have been performed internationally, and have also been recorded. A conductor as well as a composer, Carr himself conducted some of these recordings, including that of Nastasya, and concerts of his own and other composers' music in New Zealand and Australia.

Edwin Carr died in March 2003 aged 76. His autobiography, A life set to music: the autobiography of Edwin Carr, was published by Blanchard Press in 2001.