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Orchestral music

Australian works for orchestra

In December 2006 the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra celebrated its centenary, and other state orchestras boast various levels of longevity. But it was only in the mid-1930s that the orchestras gained financial and administrative stability, when the newly-formed ABC took control, believing that each state should have an orchestra of even quality. The ABC’s program of touring international conductors raised standards, and gradually a body of Australian orchestral music came into being.

Some composers produced competent if unadventurous music, but John Antill’s Corroboree in 1946 was a milestone. As ABC Director of Music in the 1960s, John Hopkins established a pattern for the encouragement of numerous new works, including early Sculthorpe, and resident conductors such as Patrick Thomas and Stuart Challender championed them. The typical ABC commission was, for a long time, a 10-12 minute curtain-raiser. Since the 1980s, in the music of Carl Vine, Brenton Broadstock and Ross Edwards especially, the symphony – largely in abeyance since the death of Alfred Hill in 1960 – has made a comeback. Centralised coordination by the ABC meant that new works were frequently premiered in two or more centres up until the mid-1990s, but with the subsequent corporatisations and devolution of the orchestras this is sadly less common.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Microsymphony (1986) by Carl Vineestablished Vine’s mature diatonic idiom and laid the foundations for an impressive body of seven symphonies.
Symphony No. 2 (1989) reflects this use of the symphony to explore extreme emotional states.
Digital sheet music sample Cries and whispers (1993) by Stephen Croninis a powerful study of anguish in sound.
Guyuhmgan by Georges Lentzmeditates Pythagorean and Aboriginal concepts of the universe.
Symphony no. 4 (2001) by Ross EdwardsStar Chant puts humanity in perspective in this celebration of the cosmos.
Mythic (2004) by Elena Kats-Cherninis an atypical, but nonetheless moving and beautiful work.

More specific categories of Orchestral music

Broader categories of Orchestral music