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Michael Smetanin : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Sharp : chamber ensemble by Michael Smetanin, from the CD Anthology of Australian music


Photo of Michael Smetanin

Michael Smetanin is one of the most distinctive figures among Australian composers. Born in Sydney in 1958 of Russian parents he completed his Bachelor of Music in Composition in Sydney in 1981. Having been awarded an International Fellowship by the Australia Council, he studied with leading Dutch composer Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague. Further awards from the Netherlands Ministry of Education and Science, and the Amsterdam Foundation for Arts Funds enabled him to spend two and a half years there until December 1984.

While studying in Holland, Smetanin composed his first major work, Track, in collaboration with the ensemble Hoketus and in 1984 he wrote The Ladder of Escape for Harry Sparnaay's Het Basklarienetten Kollektief. This work was premiered at the 1984 Salzburg Aspekete Festival in Austria and has since received many performances and recordings all over the world.

Smetanin's work continued to gather awards and receive many performances both in Australia and internationally. These include the 1999 Paul Lowin Prize for Orchestral Composition ( Australia's richest composition prize), for his work The Shape of Things to Pass..... , the Bremer Podium Konzert in 2000 at Radio Bremen in Germany which was entirely devoted to Smetanin's music and his appointment to the international jury for the 1999 Gaudeamus International Music Week in Amsterdam.

His two largest works are the chamber operas The Burrow and Gauguinboth with libretti by Alison Croggon. The Burrow is a 'psychological profile' of Franz Kafka during his last minutes of life. It created a sensation when it was premiered at the 1994 Perth Festival, with Lyndon Terracini as Kafka. Gauguin received its first production at the Melbourne Festival in 2000 also to critical acclaim and Terracini in the lead role. Smetanin's involvement with theatre was highlighted at the 2000 Adelaide Festival with the composing of music for the epic eight hour long play The Ecstatic Bible by English playwright Howard Barker.

Smetanin's music has been extensively recorded with works appearing on over 20 individually released CD albums with the title of his work The Ladder of Escape being appropriated as the name of an entire new music CD series released by Attacca records. His Piano Concerto entitled Mysterium Cosmographicum was premiered by the Sydney Symphony with Lisa Moore as soloist in July 2005 and he has been the Chair of Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music since 2002.


Biography provided by the composer — current to August 2006

Teacher/Influence on

Peter McNamara (1999 - current)

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Mysterium cosmographicum : piano with orchestra (2005) Commissioned by Symphony Australia.
Chromium yellow (duos: oboe, harp with pre-recorded sound) (1996) Commissioned by Stephen Robinson.
Burrow : opera (1993) The libretto was commissioned jointly by the Song Company and the Nova Ensemble and the music was composed on an Australia Council Composers Fellowship.
Strip : string orchestra (1991) Commissioned by Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Stroke (solo piano) (1988) Commissioned by Lisa Moore.
Digital sheet music sample Speed of sound : percussion quartet (1983) Commissioned by Synergy Percussion.

Analysis & Media

- Review: The Song Company 18 October 1992

- Review: Lament for A The Song Company 21 March 1993

- Program note: Adjacent Rooms Michael Smetanin

- Review: Spring International Festival of New Music 16 October 1993

- Review: The Burrow Michael Smetanin

- Review: From A to Z The Song Company 26 September 2006

- Program note: Michael Smetanin Due Pezzi Per Niente

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007