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James Penberthy (1917-1999) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: E = Mc2 : for unaccompanied voice by James Penberthy, from the CD One hand on the manuscript.

Photo of James Penberthy

James Penberthy was born in Melbourne in 1917 and received his early music training from his father. After attending the universities of Western Australia and Melbourne he became a schoolmaster where he taught music and formed orchestras. Following active war time service with the RAN, he obtained first class honours in composition at the University of Melbourne. He later studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in France and conducting with Sir John Barbirolli in England. For many years he worked in Western Australia where he founded the West Australian Opera Company and was co-founder of the West Australian Ballet Company.

He was a prolific composer and his major works number over 100. Although he wrote in many different genres, his intense interest in the theatre resulted in 22 ballets and 11 operas, and it is in this body of work, which displays his strong dramatic and lyrical gifts, that his importance in Australian music lies.

In 1975 Penberthy moved to live on the North Coast of NSW, where he founded the School of Arts at Southern Cross University.

He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music from Melbourne University in 1975 and the Order of Australia in 1986.

James Penberthy died on 29 March 1999.

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Hymn for the death of Jesus : organ solo Written for the 1972 Perth Organ Festival
Scherzo : Devils up there : organ solo Written for the 1972 Perth Organ Festival
Clocks (solo piano) (1983) Commissioned by the Sydney International Piano Competition, July 1985
Digital sheet music sample Love, war, meditation, op.164 : a work for radio in words & music (1980) Commissioned by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Digital sheet music sample Concerto for violin and orchestra, op.162 (violin with full orchestra) (1978) Commissioned by Jan Sedivka.
Digital sheet music sample Six preludes for solo guitar : guitar solo (1974) Commissioned by Michael Muir.

Analysis & Media

Book: Select vocal works for female voice by six Australian composers / by Barbara Janet Wilson.

- Article: James Penberthy