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Fremantle Festival 2016 Race Against Time

Frederick Septimus Kelly - Australia's Lost Composer

Fremantle Town Hall, Western Australia

A man whose music has been lost - until now

Frederick Septimus Kelly was a noted pianist and deeply gifted composer, as well as an Olympic gold medal winning rower. Ironically he is hardly remembered even in his own country, probably because he was educated and lived in the UK, returning to Australia rarely to perform.

He is Australia’s important cultural loss of the Great War. Much of his music - some 36 pieces, have never been played publicly, let alone recorded. A leading figure in London musical society prior to WW1, he joined the British Royal Naval Division and served at Gallipoli and in France where he was killed on November 13 1916 on the final day of the Battle of the Somme. The Flowers of War are bringing his music to Australians in a brand new double CD, being published by the ABC, A Race Against Time.

 Kelly was a brilliant pianist (he was Pablo Casal's pianist) and was a leading figure in London musical society prior to WW1, returning to Sydney to perform with the Sydney Symphony in 1911. He joined up with the Royal Naval Division (Churchill’s private army) at the outbreak of war and served with them at Gallipoli, where he wrote his haunting elegy to Rupert Brooke, his friend and fellow officer. Later in the campaign he wrote the Gallipoli Sonata for the leading violinist Jelly D’Aranyi, for whom Ravel wrote his Tzigane and Bartok both his violin sonatas. Finally in France where he served in Battle of the Somme, he wrote other works while serving before finally being killed in the liberation of Beaumont-Hamel on November 13 1916, on the last day of the Battle of the Somme.

Years of detective work, 36 premiere recordings

Chris Latham has invested eight years of his life to research and detective work in this project, tracking down Kelly's original manuscripts in Florence, Frankfurt, Aldeburgh and Scotland as well as Australia. The CDs will present 36 premiere recordings increasing the number of works of Kelly's that are recorded six-fold. We hope to rewrite Australian musical history to show that we almost lost a talent of international significance, as a way of demonstrating the cultural cost of war.

We are creating the first portrait double CD of his music in order that he can be known for the first time in his own country. 

It is time for Australia to claim its forgotten son, composer, pianist and athlete.