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Women Composers in Australia

The Antipodes were ahead of the curve in giving women the vote, and Australia similarly has a proud tradition of producing composers who are women. This is not to gloss over inequities that existed and persist, but the fact remains that Australian music was, for much of the 20th century, enriched by the work of such names as Esther Rofe, Moneta Eagles, Miriam Hyde, Dulcie Holland, Mirrie Hill, Margaret Sutherland and Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

Many of these wrote a vast amount of fine music for educative purposes; many of them also wrote significant works for the concert hall and opera stage. Hyde, for instance, composed two piano concertos that she premiered with major London orchestras. Sutherland, a composer of orchestral, operatic and chamber music, is credited with introducing a then-contemporary neoclassicism into Australian music when she returned from Europe in 1925. Glanville-Hicks enjoyed an eminence as critic and composer – of opera especially – in Europe and the United States.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of figures as different as Anne Boyd, Jennifer Fowler, Alison Bauld and Moya Henderson, whose careers increasingly took place on the international stage. It is today unremarkable that many of Australia’s most prominent composers are women.

Significant Works

  Work Notes
Violin sonata (1925) by Margaret Sutherlandis a wonderfully argued half-hour of music.
Etruscan concerto (1954) by Peggy Glanville-Hicksis a sinuously elegant work for piano and small orchestra.
Bencharong (1976) by Anne Boydcontemplates the beautiful sonorities of the string orchestra.
Cadences, deviations and Scarlatti (1995) by Elena Kats-Cherninis a reminder that wit is not impossible in new music.
The heart's ear (1997) by Liza Limthis work for mixed ensemble displays Lim’s exquisite sensitivity to instrumental sound.
Digital sheet music sample Lindy (1997) by Moya Henderson, Judith Rodriguez and Moya Hendersondeals with the miscarriage of justice and mob mentality after the death of Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in a powerful opera.