Homepage of Graeme Skinner
Graeme Skinner
And curator of Australharmony

About Graeme Skinner
Australharmony @ Trove
Graeme Skinner @ Trove
Graeme Skinner @
University of Sydney
The Australharmonist
The Amadio family
Sculthorpe obituary
Sculthorpe memorial
Ross Edwards
Castelnuovo-Tesdesco Guitar Concerto No 1
Lambert Piano Concerto
Haydn & Dvořák @ Edinburgh Festival 2010
Narcisse Pelletier



Sculthorpe book ... now in eBook and paperback

The original 1000-copy 2007 hardback edition of my Sculthorpe biography is now officially out of print. To replace it, UNSW Press/New South Wales Books has just released a new paperback edition, with a new preface (2015) I added in the wake of Peter's death. More importantly for readers, there's also a new budget-priced eBook edition, to be on sale later this month:

A scan of the original 2007 print, with all the illustrations, remains available for preview at Google Books

The text of the 2015 ebook, without illustrations, but with a new preface and some minor corrections, is available for preview at Google Books

If the print paperback is too expensive (or bulky) for you, you can now purchase the ebook at a very considerable discount at
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer
Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer‎

25 OCTOBER 2015

At the binders ... available shortly!

Michael Noone and Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Multum in parvo: a 1555 Morales processional partbook at Toledo Cathedral, its genesis, use, and later history”
in Tess Knighton and Emilio Ros-Fábregas (eds)
New perspectives on early music in Spain
(Papers on Hispanic music from the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, Barcelona 2011)

(Kassel: Edition Reichenberger, 2015), 88-107

1 OCTOBER 2015

Conference paper

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
"The invention of Australian music"
Paper presented to the Musicological Society of Australia 2015 Conference,
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 11.30am Thursday 1 October 2015

Image above from the conference book of abstracts.

Forthcoming refereed journal review article

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
"The invention of Australian music"
Musicology Australia 37/2 (2015)

Click here for website support materials for both of the above at Australharmony
The invention of Australian music online


“Light is beginning to be cast into the gloom . . .”

Clarice Beckett, Taxi rank c.1931, oil on canvas on board, Kerry Stokes Collection, National Gallery of Australia: http://nga.gov.au/mistymoderns/details/beckett02.cfm 

The July 2015 issue of Musicology Australia (37/1, pages 104-06) has a informative and thoughful review by James Koehne (University of Adelaide) of an illumianting new book, Rhoderick McNeill's The Australian symphony from Federation to 1960 (Ashgate, 2014) (preview Rhod’s book here at Google Books: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=nFy8AgAAQBAJ).

James rightly concludes (page 106):

"McNeill's study ... makes a definitive contribution to our understanding of Australia's music culture."

But he begins his review (page 104) with this supportive observation:

“Our view of Australian ‘art music’ is shrouded, like a Clarice Beckett painting, in mists and shadows. For the sense and commentary, we have had to rely for far too long upon Roger Covell's 1967 account Australia’s music: themes of a new society. Light is beginning to be cast into the gloom, however: the investigative thoroughness of Graeme Skinner, has paid off spectacularly in revealing a much richer layering to our pictures of colonial musical life and of the musical world which revolved around Peter Sculthorpe . . .

Thank you, James.


“Australian musical first modernism”, book chapter in The modernist world

Here are the full details of this book chapter of mine just published.

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney)
“Australian musical first modernism”
in Stephen Ross and Allana C. Lindgren (eds), The modernist world (New York: Routledge, 2015), 273-81: ISBN 978-0-415-84503-8

I'm particularly pleased that, at least as of today, all of my contribution is also previewable at Google Books.


Scutlhorpe The ABC recordings

Booklet essay for the definitive ABC 10CD Sculthorpe

In 1989, Peter asked me to write the booklet notes for his first ABC Classics CD, a recording of his orchestral works by the Sydney Symphony conducted by Stuart Challender. Apparently, the arrangement must have worked for him, because over the next 25 years I have written booklets for well over a dozen more Sculthorpe discs of orchestral and chamber music for several labels, many of them “authorised” first recordings, worked with him on the compilation and early editing of his 1999 memoir Sun Music: journeys and reflections from a composer’s life, built the first edition of his website, and wrote the first book of a projected 2-volume biography of him. Early in 2014, ABC Classics was already planning to reissue its 10 (to date) Sculthorpe CDs as a boxed set. However, Peter’s death in August brought the project to the fore, and the label and I agreed that it was timely that I prepare a revised booklet essay for the set. Aware that it would be a resource especially for secondary and terrtiary music students, I was keen that the booklet (with my 30,000 word essay) be freely downloadable, even for those not downloading the recordings.

Click here, or on the heading above, and scroll down to the top of the tracklist for the link “Download the Peter Sculthorpe – The ABC Recordings Booklets here” in either CD or iTunes formats.

And see Michael Hannan's two-part review of the set at the Music Council of Australia (1 June and 1 July 2015)


" ... On opening the box the first thing one notices is the thick booklet, which runs to 88 pages and is a very fine guide to the works presented. Graeme Skinner's commentary skilfully blends biographical information, cultural background and his own analytical insights and critical responses as well as those of others ..."


"... Finally I should mention again Graeme Skinner's outstanding program notes on the music. Peter Sculthorpe 1929-2014 The ABC Recordings is also brilliant value for money at around $100."


ACO Four Seasons BIS CD

Booklet notes for new ACO Vivaldi 4 Seasons etc.

Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) Op. 8, Nos 1-4
Largo from Violin Concerto in D major (RV226)
Concerto in B minor for 4 violins, Op. 3 No 10 (RV580)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 3 No 6 (RV356)
Grave from Violin Concerto in D major (RV562)
Sinfonia from La verità in cimento (RV739)

These new recordings by the Australian Chamber Orchestra (BIS-2103) are being released internationally in February 2015, coninciding with its 40th anniversary. The ACO will be playing the Four Seasons live (also with my program notes) during its February 2015 national tour, with a few extra performances in in November-December.


Sculthorpe Memorial, 25 October 2014

Program essay for the SCULTHORPE memorial

The University of Sydney asked me to write this program essay for its Sculthorpe memorial at Sydney Conservatorium on 25 October.


Del Sol Quartet Sculthorpe

Booklet notes Del Sol Quartet’s new SCULTHORPE

This new boxed set, for which in I was asked to write the booklet notes, was released in the USA shortly before Peter’s death, but (somewhat to even my surprise) it was issued under the anyway rather final-sounding title Sculthorpe: the complete quartets with didjeridu (CD SONO LUMINUS). In other circumstances, it might have been wiser to add “so far”. Certainly, of the 18 quartets (of which the first two are anyway lost), Sculthorpe authorised that these four at least - Nos 12, 14, 16, and 18 - may be played, alternatively, as quintets for string quartet and didjeridu.


Sculthorpe - Jabiru Dreaming at 2014 Edinburgh Festival

This 26 August Edinburgh performance of Peter's Third Sonata for Strings, Jabiru Dreaming (after String Quartet No. 11), by the Scottish Ensemble and Commonwealth Strings, for which the Festival asked me to write a program note and composer profile, sadly turned into a memorial. At the final proof, we were able to make a small - and I hope fitting - adjustment to profile:

Peter Sculthorpe, who was 85 when he died on 8 August, spent most of his extraordinarily productive life following Percy Grainger’s advice to Australian composers to “look to the north, to the islands”. As an essential expression of his being Australian, he situated his music, spiritually and geographically, within Australia’s Pacific basin neighbourhood, in what Felipe Fernández-Armesto called “The New Mediterranean”. Japanese, Indonesian, Papuan, Mexican, Easter Island, and Californian influences all found voice in Sculthorpe’s music, as he instinctively journeyed to the edge of his own world, seeking glimpses into the next. Characteristically, at the end of his book of memoirs (1999) Sculthorpe quoted the final lines of “The Farewell” from Mahler’s The Song of the Earth, in Steuart Wilson’s translation:

All, everywhere and ever, ever,
Shines the blue horizon …

Sculthorpe first heard Mahler’s setting in wartime broadcasts by the visiting English music and cricket journalist, Neville Cardus, and later got to know Erwin Stein’s piano reduction of the score intimately, especially “The Farewell”. As he later recalled:

If a day passed without my playing it through, I believed I would be the victim of some terrible misfortune. Without my knowing it, my own music began to embrace its impassioned appoggiaturas and long-held funereal pedal points.

 One yearning Mahlerian appoggiatura, from A-flat to G, took on added significance when he discovered that Johannes Kepler, in his Harmonices mundi (1619), described the music of the Earth as moving from G to A-flat and back to G:

   Keppler Terra

These pitches have permeated almost all my music … extended songs, both sorrowful and joyful … for the survival of this planet.


Peter Sculthorpe birth notice 1929

Sculthorpe obituary
Australian Financial Review

In 1971, Peter wrote to a well-wisher: “One grows used to being summarily summarised”. Alas, he no longer has any say in it! For this reason, as well as for obvious others, I baulked when on Sunday morning when I got an email from the Australian Financial Review asking me two write them an obituary by sunset. Despite having little tolerance for financiers or this notoriously blue-tie journal, I thought I'd better make a go of it. Needless to say, the text that appeared the next day, for all that is was skilfully subbed, was not entirely as it had left my desk. Still and all, I can live with it.


Peter Joshua Sculthorpe
29 April 1929 - 8 August 2014


Going to the bush to practice

Australharmony’s moved . . .

As of today, 10 July 2014, my online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia, moved to http://sydney.edu.au/paradisec/australharmony. The National Library of Australia has archived the old site as it was in December 2013, now stored permanently in their Pandora web archive, and accessible via the old site’s Trove record.


The Amadio family

The Amadio family

In 2009, ABC Classics very briefly issued a CD boxed set of recordings of the Amadio family - John, Clive, and Neville. Unfortunately, it had to be withdrawn for a simple reason. Clive's collection included an unlabelled tape copy that, along with all the rest, was assumed to be one of his own performances. Shortly after the set was released, a hifi buff contacted the ABC with the news that it was actually a famous recording by the great Marcel Mule, one of Clive’s idols. Because of this case of mistaken identity, the complete Amadio set was pulled off the shelves, and so far has not returned, not even with the Mule duly removed.

Len Amadio had asked me to write this booklet essay, based partly on his recollections, and on his family archive of documents, programs, and memorabilia. Another important source was Donald Westlake, a long-time pupil, admirer and friend of the Amadios, and author of the book From me to you: the life and times of Clive Amadio. Also important were ABD entries on John Amadio by Mimi Colligan, on Florence Austral by Thérèse Radic, and by Donald Westlake on Clive Amadio, and, so too, Ann Cecil-Sterman’s article John Amadio - virtuoso flutist.

As a tribute to John, Clive, Neville, Len, and all the Amadios, I am posting my booklet essay here.


Patrick Thomas

Patrick Thomas, Australian master

In 2011, ABC CLASSICS finally released a long-planned set of recordings by this Australian master conductor. At the prompting of a mutual friend Len Amadio, Patrick asked whether I could write the booklet essay, backgrounding his career and circumstances under which the recordings were made. I was delighted to do this, and reproduce what I wrote here on my website in the hope that it might encourage readers to dip into Patrick Thomas’s recorded legacy …

I am posting my booklet essay here.

© Graeme Skinner 2015