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Peter Sculthorpe Peter Sculthorpe i(A10078 works by) (a.k.a. Peter Joshua Sculthorpe)
Born: Established: 29 Apr 1929 Launceston, Northeast Tasmania, Tasmania, ; Died: Ceased: 8 Aug 2014 Woollahra, Sydney Eastern Harbourside, Sydney Eastern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
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Peter Sculthorpe began writing music at age seven and at the age of 13 decided to make a career of music. He studied at the Melbourne Conservatorium from 1946 to 1950, then returned to Tasmania. Unable to make any money as a composer, he went into business, running a hunting, shooting and fishing store in Launceston. He later won a scholarship to study at Oxford University, studying under Egon Wellesz, but left before completing his doctorate when he father fell gravely ill.

In 1956 Sculthorpe collaborated with Anne Godfrey-Smith (lyrics) and Ric Throssell (text) on the musical farce Ulterior Motifs (1958), and the following year was invited to contribute original music to one of Phillip Street revues, Cross Section. In 1963 Sculthorpe started lecturing at the University of Sydney, and where he continued to teach until retiring. He now holds the position of emeritus professor.

During the mid-1960s Sculthorpe spent some time at Yale University (USA) as composer-in-residence. One of his compositions from this period, Sun Music I was written especially for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's first overseas tour, and three years later it and several other compositions in the Sun Music series were used for the ballet of the same name. Choreographed by Sir Robert Helpmann, both the ballet and the music gained international attention.

Sculthorpe's interest in theatre and music saw him work with Patrick White in the late 1960s on an opera about Eliza Fraser, but White chose to terminate the artistic relationship. The composer subsequently wrote the opera Rites of Passage (1973) to his own libretto, using texts in Latin and the Australian indigenous language Arrernte. Another of his operas, Quiros, was produced in 1982.

Most Referenced Works


  • Composer Peter Sculthorpe was included in the Bulletin's '100 Most Influential Australians' list in 2006.

  • Sculthorpe's credits also include soundtracks for the films They Found a Cave (1962) and Age of Consent (1969).

Personal Awards

2007 Don Banks Music Award
2001 Centenary Medal For outstanding service to musical composition in Australia
1990 The Order of the British Empire Officer of the Order of the British Empire Civil For service to music.

Awards for Works

The Gallipoli Symphony 2015 single work musical theatre

'The story of the Gallipoli campaign is everlasting. It is a story of endeavour, courage, tragedy, great achievements and great sacrifices. It is a story of young nations and old coming together in conflict. It is, most of all a human story, of the spectrum of human emotions. This story is woven into the fabric of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Millions of words have been written about the campaign, but the story has never been ‘narrated’ musically, until now.

'The Gallipoli Symphony is a major composition produced by internationally respected composers from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. It represents the first time ever that eleven acclaimed composers from three nations that fought in the campaign have collaborated on a single commemorative work of this scale.

'The Gallipoli story was structured into parts, like chapters in a book, each themed around an element of the campaign and assigned to a composer to create a work based on that theme.

  • Gelibolu : Omar Faruk Tekbilek (Turkey)
  • He Poroporaoki (Farewell): Gareth Farr and Richard Nunns (New Zealand)
  • The Voyage : Graeme Koehne AO (Australia)
  • Thoughts of Home : Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE (Australia)
  • The Landing : Elena Kats-Chernin (Australia)
  • The Invasion : Kamran Ince (Turkey)
  • God Pity Us Poor Soldiers : Ross Harris (New Zealand)
  • The August Offensive : Andrew Schultz (Australia)
  • The Trenches Are Empty Now : Ross Edwards (Australia)
  • Hope of the Higher Heart : Demir Demirkan (Turkey)
  • Future : Graeme Koehne AO (Australia)

'Every year since 2006 a movement of the Symphony has been presented at Gallipoli. Leading classical and traditional musicians engaged from Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, augmented by musicians drawn from the Australian and New Zealand military bands performed a piece of The Gallipoli Symphony in the early hours of 25 April for the thousands of attendees awaiting the Dawn Service.

'After ten years in the making, The Gallipoli Symphony will be performed for the world in 2015.

'The Gallipoli Symphony creates an important legacy. It tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign through music; reminding us of the horror and the heartache and carrying a message of hope, peace, friendship and collaboration between nations.' (Publication summary)

2016 nominated Helpmann Awards for Performing Arts in Australia Best New Australian Work
Last amended 8 Aug 2014 20:09:31
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