Vale Peter Sculthorpe 1929-2014


The passing of Peter Sculthorpe is a historic moment, the passing of an era that defined our perception of Australian culture and by extension Australian music, as never before - and arguably as never again.

Peter's longstanding association with the Festival is well known. Instigated by the untiring efforts of Chris Latham, the festival presented numerous works by Sculthorpe over the last five years and in the process unearthed many forgotten yet seminal works.  This includes Rites of Passages, the work initially written for the opening of the Sydney Opera House, as well as the opera/oratorio Quiros, renamed The Great South Land, performed in its revised version as a centrepiece of the 2012 Festival. I had the great fortune to be at the helm of both performances and in the process to get a closer understanding of what Sculthorpe tried to achieve, not only in new sounds but also in new ways of making sound. Both works are prophetic for Australia in the 21st century, the dreams and aspirations of a modern nation in a globalised world but still struggling to connect with its indigenous history as well as the age old utopian visions of a great undiscovered southern paradise.  

The passing away of a great man is a sad moment. But anyone who met Peter on his many visits to Canberra would know that he was a fun loving, gregarious man who loved a party. He gave us much to celebrate, the memories as well as his music, drawn from our very own earth and sky.

Roland Peelman -  Artistic Director, CIMF

It was with the deepest sadness and a sense of the sudden absence of the person who defined Australian culture when I heard of the passing of Peter Sculthorpe. There has not been a time for most of us when Peter Sculthorpe has not been part of our musical life and defining how we think about Australia through music.  He will be particularly deeply missed by the Canberra International Music Festival family as over the last few years through the determination of our Artistic Director at the time, Chris Latham, to have as much of Peter Sculthorpe’s work heard as possible.  We all had the privilege of having rich and varied Sculthorpe musical programmes with Peter as an enthusiastic participant talking about his music, interacting with the musicians, playing some of his music himself and providing commissioned works.  What stood out was Peter Sculthorpe’s humility, joy for life and deep love for Australia, the land, its original inhabitants and particularly its spirit.

It is rare in our lifetimes to have an individual so deeply define how we feel about ourselves over such a long period. We at CIMF are deeply saddened by his passing but at the same time know his spirit lives on through his music.

Rest in peace Peter while your music plays on wakening Australia's spirit.

Arn Sprogis – President, Pro Musica Board