Australian Piano Music 1850-1950
Sydney Conservatorium of Music Library
There is a rich legacy of piano works written by Australian composers who were born in the 19th century and composed throughout the twentieth. Many of the composers have been completely forgotten and their music is long out of print and not easily available. Recordings of the music, if ever made, no longer exist. Yet the music is as well written as that of the many European composers most pianists and students study as part of their everyday musical diet. If anything, the women composers fare worse than their male counterparts. However these composers have left a musical legacy that should not be ignored but instead revisited, revitalised and acknowledged.
The composers include Alex Burnard, Arthur Benjamin, Alfred Hill, Dorian le Gallienne, Roy Agnew, Miriam Hyde, Margaret Sutherland, Horace Perkins, Louis Lavater, Dulcie Holland, Meta Overman, Iris de Cairos-Rego, Marjorie Hesse, Moneta Eagles, Esther Rofe, Frank Hutchens, Lindley Evans, Una Bourne, Frank Hutchens, Camille Gheysons and many more.
They wrote sonatas, suites for piano, toccatas, preludes, works for children and were inspired by the Australian environment, the birth or death of friends, current events and many other factors. They wrote for commissions and as compositional exercises. They studied with international composition teachers and with each other. Their styles represent their own individual musical language, or a language adopted by the fashion of the time.
The Australian composers of piano music between 1850 and 1950 deserve to be recognised as leaving an important cultural legacy.