“There is no composer in Australia whose work is held in such high regard by every faction amongst his colleagues: every composer in the country seems to admire Butterley’s work. Yet his music has not always captured the public’s imagination to the same degree as that of his contemporaries…”
Andrew Ford, Composer to Composer (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1993), 164.
Australia has a poor track record in recognising and remembering the achievements of its artists. In 2015 Nigel Butterley AM, turns 80 and Arcko are celebrating this event with a concert of symphonic proportions. Nigel Butterley is a significant figure and one very worthy of greater recognition. During his career as a composer, performer, arts administrator and educator, Butterley has left a large legacy of achievement. As a composer, his output is vast and varied, covering symphonies, operas, choral works and chamber pieces, for which he has received many national, but also international, awards, and, like too many Australian composers, is rarely performed by the state symphony orchestras. As a performer Butterley was involved in the Australian premiers of works such as Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano and solo piano works of Oliver Messiean.
During his time with the ABC concert departments he was responsible for bringing such luminaries as Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Vladimir Ashkenazy to Australia for chamber recitals, in capital cities but also in regional centres. And finally, as a staff member of Newcastle’s Conservatorium of Music, over a period of decades, he in instructed generations of students in the wonders of modern music and influencing others, such as Elliott Gyger, through his prolific output.
Using the forces of an expanded Arcko, up to 60 players, this concert will celebrate Butterley’s 80th year, in a program that includes his internationally acclaimed radiophonic work In the Head, the Fire (Prix Italia 1966) alongside his dark and reflective symphonic work From Sorrowing Earth, not performed since 1991, and complimented by the first performance of a specially commissioned concerto for piano and orchestra by Elliott Gyger featuring the wonderful young Australian pianist, Zubin Kanga. Elliott Gyger is just releasing a book on the music of Nigel Butterley, which examines significant works from Butterley’s canon and as such seemed a perfect fit to write a new work as Butterley himself is, sadly, no longer composing. This concert is being co-produced with ABC FM who are planning to broadcast it live-to-air from their Iwaki auditorium in Melbourne.