Australian Composers

Nigel Westlake (b. 1958)

Nigel Westlake’s career in music has spanned more than 4 decades, first as a clarinet virtuoso with Australia’s leading chamber group The Australia Ensemble, and then with guitarist John Williams’ group Attacca as a composer & performer. As a composer for the screen, his film credits include the feature films Ali’s Wedding, Paper Planes, Miss Potter, Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Children of the Revolution, and The Nugget, plus the Imax films Antarctica, The Edge, Imagine, Solarmax and numerous others. His compositions have earned numerous accolades, including the Gold Medal at the New York International Radio Festival and 15 APRA awards (Australasian Performing Right Assoc.) in the screen & art music categories.
The feature film Babe won the Golden Globe Award in 1996 for best feature musical/comedy, and his romantic score for Miss Potter won “Feature Film Score of the Year” & “Best Soundtrack Album” at the 2007 APRA / AGSC Screen Music Awards. His secular mass Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli was winner of the prestigious 2013 Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize, won the 2011 Limelight Award for Best New Composition, was named Orchestral Work of the Year at the 2012 APRA Art Music Awards, and was released to critical acclaim on the ABC Classics label by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer.

Elena Kats-Chernin (b. 1957)

Elena Kats-Chernin is one of the most cosmopolitan composers working today, having reached millions of listeners worldwide through her prolific catalogue of works for theater, ballet, orchestra, and chamber ensemble. Born in 1957 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Kats-Chernin received training at the Gnessin Musical College before immigrating to Australia in 1975. After graduating from the New South Wales Conservatory in 1980 she was awarded a DAAD (German academic exchange) grant to study with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover. She remained in Germany for 13 years, returning in 1994 to Australia where she now lives in Sydney.
One of Australia’s leading composers, Elena Kats-Chernin has created works in nearly every genre. Among her many commissions are pieces for Ensemble Modern, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Adelaide, Tasmanian, Queensland, Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, Present Music, City of London Sinfonia, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the North Carolina Symphony. She has written extensively for dance, collaborating with leading Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard in a series of large-scale dance works. She recently adapted Monteverdi’s three operas (Orpheus, Odysseus, Poppea) at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Barrie Kosky, which were broadcast in a 12 hour Marathon performance on 3sat TV. Her music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.

Ross Edwards (b. 1943)

One of Australia’s best-known and most performed composers, Ross Edwards has created a distinctive sound world which reflects his interest in deep ecology and his belief in the need to reconnect music with elemental forces, as well as restore its traditional association with ritual and dance. His music, universal in that it is concerned with age-old mysteries surrounding humanity, is at the same time connected to its roots in Australia, whose cultural diversity it celebrates, and from whose natural environment it draws inspiration, especially birdsong and the mysterious patterns and drones of insects.
His compositions include a great ongoing cycle of six symphonies, numerous concertos, and an extensive catalogue of choral, chamber and vocal works, plus film scores, a chamber opera and music for dance. His Dawn Mantras greeted the dawning of the new millennium from the sails of the Sydney Opera House in a worldwide telecast. A recipient of the Order of Australia and numerous other awards, he is currently the elder statesman of Australian music and will celebrate his 75th birthday in 2018.

Graeme Koehne AO (b. 1956)

Graeme Koehne AO is one of Australia’s leading composers whose music is notable for its emotional eloquence and aural pleasure. His orchestral compositions such as Elevator Music, Powerhouse, Shaker Dances, Inflight Entertainment (oboe concerto) and High Art (trumpet concerto) have enjoyed enormous popularity through conductors such as Vladimir Jurowski, David Porcelijn, Edo De Waart and Kristjan Järvi. He was one of a select group of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish composers commissioned to contribute to the Gallipoli Symphony, a 10-year project culminating in 2015 that commemorated the legendary World War I military campaign. Until recently he also chaired the Music Board of the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding advisory body. In 1998-99 he was the state of South Australia’s Composer-in-Residence. He was awarded a Doctorate of Music from the University of Adelaide in 2002 and in 2004 received the Sir Bernard Heinze Award from the University of Melbourne. In 2014 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Richard Mills (b. 1949)

Richard Mills is one of Australia’s most sought after composers and music directors. He is currently Artistic Director of Victorian Opera and previously held the post of Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera from 1997 – 2012. In 2008 he was Musica Viva’s Composer of the Year, and from 2002 – 2008 held the post of Director of the Australian Music Project for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He is one of the few Australian composers who has focussed on writing operas, including Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, and Batavia for Opera Australia and his masterwork The Love of the Nightingale, which premiered at the Perth International Arts Festival to universal acclaim, winning numerous awards.
Some of Richard Mills’ most recent compositions include a score for the Australian Ballet and his Passion According to St. Mark which premiered around Australia in 2009.  His song cycle Songlines of the Heart’s Desire received its European premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival and his Organ Concerto was premiered with Calvin Bowman and the Melbourne Symphony in August 2011. A notable recording artist he also has an extensive discography of over twenty releases with the Australian symphony orchestras, including a CD of his major orchestral works with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a three-volume CD of the film music of Franz Waxman which was awarded a Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik.

Frederick Septimus Kelly DSC (1881 – 1916)

Frederick Septimus Kelly DSC was an Australian musician and composer who was killed in action during the First World War. He also was a famous rower who competed and won a Gold medal in the 1908 Summer Olympics. After growing up in Australia, he was sent to Eton College to further his musical studies and then studied music at Oxford, and piano and composition at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. On his return to London he acted as an adviser to the Classical Concert Society using his influence to promote modern composers including Debussy and Scriabin. He organised organise a concert in London by Maurice Ravel and performed extensively as pianist for Pablo Casals.
Following the outbreak of war in 1914, Kelly was commissioned into the Royal Naval Division with his friends—the poet Rupert Brooke, the critic and composer William Denis Browne, and other notable cultural figures in what became known as the Latin Club. He was wounded twice at Gallipoli, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant-commander. At Gallipoli he wrote music in his tent, including his famous Elegy for String Orchestra: “In Memoriam Rupert Brooke” (1915). Kelly survived the Gallipoli campaign, only to die at Beaucourt-sur-l’Ancre, France, when rushing a German machine gun post in the last days of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916. He is buried in Martinsart’s British Cemetery not far from where he fell at the age of 35. The Somme Lament was composed in the village of Menil-Martinsart two weeks before his death.