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Peter Dart : Associate Artist

Peter Dart's music has an elemental love of rhythm, melody and counterpoint, and above all the simple joy of sound. For him, music is essentially about the expression of the intimacy and transcendence that give meaning to life.

Peter Dart is considered to be one of Australia's leading Composition educators. With a PhD in Music, he currently holds the prestigious position of Head of Composition at the Conservatorium High School in Sydney, working and sharing his inspiration with some of the most aspiring young musicians in Australia.

At the age of eight, Peter discovered a treasure trove: the precious record collection of his deceased grandmother. Searching within the dusty flat covers he found a recording of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. He had never heard any Classical music and on first hearing it made little sense. But aware that he was in the presence of something large and powerful, he listened repeatedly, until the jigsaw pieces came together to generate a huge impact. Peter felt that this music was saying something larger than life. Two years later, he heard the Sydney Jazz Musician, Don Burrows, perform live. The impact of that discovery inspired him to learn the Clarinet. Less obviously, at the time, other things began to develop as part of his musical self-an instinct for rhythm and a love of melodic freedom.

In 1965, he gained a place at the high school of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. It was a privileged place to be, constantly exposed to great musicians and great music. Every day was a musical discovery. But, for him, the greatest discoveries were contemporary sounds that stretched his ears and blew his mind. From 1967, he recorded late night broadcasts of Twentieth-Century music. After one hearing of a Hindemith string quartet, he decided to start composing. The outcome of this was that, at the age of 14, he wrote a quartet and began composition lessons with the doyen of Australian Composers at that time, Richard Meale. In the years that followed, until 1973, he studied with Peter Sculthorpe and Don Banks, with works performed at ISCM Concerts in Sydney and Perth. In 1978, Easter Music, a work for solo piano, was recorded by the Australian Pianist Robert Curry for Polskie Radio.

From the mid-1970s, Peter's musical life took a new turn. He took a break from composing and threw himself into a career as a Clarinettist. For ten years, he worked in concert and opera orchestras in Sydney, such as the AOBO and the SSO, and in Brisbane in the Queensland Theatre Orchestra. Once again, this was a time of discovery, working with many fine conductors, including William Primrose, Georg Tintner and Thomas Schuback. In this environment, every day was a practical lesson in the joy of instrumental sounds. Working with vocalists also developed his interest in the relationship between music, text and dramatic action. In Brisbane, in the mid-1980s, he studied composition with Georg Tintner, a Viennese conductor/composer who had studied with Felix Weingartner and Joseph Marx. These lessons were highly disciplined in melody and counterpoint. More than anything, they inspired him to pick up where he left off and compose again.

From 1987 to 1998, Peter left performance to become Head of Music at Trinity Grammar School in Sydney. While there, he taught composition and wrote occasional music for school productions. At one stage, Peter planned to write a one-act opera based on the Faust legend, for the boys to perform. The libretto was completed, but nothing came of the music until another change of life, when he left teaching to train for pastoral ministry. It was in these years that he devoted time to the Opera, writing with a greater sense of freedom. The truth is, that even as a performer he had always thought as a composer, and this was a project that captivated his attention, whether the work would ever be performed or not.

With little prospect of performance for the opera at that time, he decided in 2010 to write music that could be more economically performed-that would bring together ideas that had been simmering for decades. Triptych for Two Pianos, was the first of these pieces, and it was an overwhelming moment when, at Santa Lucia station in Venice, he read a text from Daniel Herscovitch saying that he and Clemens Leske were eager to perform the work-which they have done many times since, most notably at the Australian Duo Piano Festival in Brisbane in November 2018. The year 2021 saw Toccata Classics release a CD of Peter's work. This includes Triptych and a variety of newer chamber music that is varied in conception and style.

Peter Dart — current to December 2023