Thursday 21 August 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Peter Sculthorpe Condolence Motion

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, the Leader has just talked about Peter Sculthorpe being a very strong and proud Tasmanian and the fact that he was a Launceston boy. He grew up at his parents' grocery store in St Leonards, and that weatherboard building still stands in St. Leonards Road on the corner near the school. He was a student at Launceston Church Grammar School, and as parents involved with the school we knew only too well of the heritage and tradition that he had left at the school. He was a regular visitor at the school, always welcomed with open arms.

Older Launceston residents will remember Sculthorpe's gun and fishing shop in Brisbane Street that was run by his family. I have never seen it, it was about 3 metres wide. So in Launceston we can claim Peter Sculthorpe as our own.

Peter began composing after his first piano lesson at the age of nine and he first came to international attention in 1955, with his Piano Sonatina, which was performed in BadenBaden in Germany. Then came the first of the series about the Australian outback, the Irkanda series, which marked him then as a truly great Australian composer, not just influenced by and copying the music developed by the great composers of Europe and Russia. He certainly would have to be the greatest Australian composer of our time.

I quote from a tribute from Chris Latham in The Canberra Times writing about Peter Sculthorpe's life:

Peter was a great marcher to his own drum. His personal magnetism drew us into step behind him, and before long 'Australian music' had swelled into a happy, diverse and vibrant throng. He was a sun in our sky, a ship in whose slipstream we could follow, a champion who blazed trails where few had gone before. It will be very difficult for us all to learn to be our own 'superhero' without him.

We love his music because he loved it so deeply, and strove so hard to make it true. It all unfolded so well, everything in its proper place, all the proportions so harmoniously balanced.

My own memories of his music are: I remember the controversy which goes back some 15 or 20 years ago, when people were very confronted by a piece of work by Peter Sculthorpe. It was quite revolutionary but I remember when - you might remember, Mr President - we had young Ben Austin play the piano during my electorate tour and he has gone on to develop into such a fine pianist. When we brought him back for a concert performance at the Queen Victoria Museum, he chose a selection of music which included that Peter Sculthorpe piece. He played and brought that piece of music by Peter Sculthorpe to life. That is how you need to hear the music of Peter Sculthorpe, in a live performance, with someone, a fellow Launcestonian, who really interprets his music quite brilliantly. I would love for you all to hear that music expressed in the way Ben Austin was able to express it on the piano, and that was a tribute. Then I remember, when Ben was catching the plane to go back, Peter Sculthorpe was actually at the airport coming in on a flight.

Mrs Armitage - A nice coincidence.

Mr FINCH - A wonderful coincidence. In fact we tried to get the two to meet but it could not be arranged. He was a wonderful man of music, and one of our very own, who leaves a wonderful music legacy: Peter Sculthorpe.