Frank Hutchens (1892-1965)
Frank Hutchens was a benevolent, kindly, and intelligent man and when asked, his many hundreds of students described his character as being exactly that as suggested by his appearance. Hutchens was one of the founding staff members at the NSW Conservatorium, which opened its doors to students in 1915. He was the longest serving piano teacher, having taught there for fifty years and the only remaining teacher from the early days still at the Conservatorium when he died in 1965. One-time director of the Conservatorium, Joseph Post, described him thus: “Frank Hutchens engendered the love of almost everyone he came into contact with here. The quality of his work made him undoubtedly one of the best teachers we have ever had. He was a gentle composer who wrote music which may not be great but is enjoyed. He was a fine pianist with a very special personality… a lovable sincerity.” Long term friend and colleague Vivien Langrish wrote describing Hutchens: “His genial amiability was proverbial, and I have no doubt that his great success in his calling was partially due to this.”
In 1906 he left for London to study at the Royal Academy. He took piano lessons with Tobias Matthay and composition with Frederick Corder. In 1915 he accepted Henri Verbrugghen’s offer of a Professorship in Piano at the newly established NSW Conservatorium of Music and introduced the Matthay method of piano playing to his many students.
Hutchens maintained a busy performing schedule alongside his many hours of teaching. A review from a concert of the Waldstein Sonata (Beethoven) describes the performance: “The first movement was not quite up to the mark, but the adagio was very expressively treated, und the beautiful rondo movement was excellent. Cyril Monk, violinist and Frank Hutchens gave the first Australian performance of the Debussy Sonata for Violin and Piano (1917) and together with Gladstone Bell, cellist, the three gave the Australian premiere of the Ravel Piano Trio while also premiering works by their contemporaries such as Alfred Hill (Trio in A Minor).
He was an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College of Music, London, an organiser of the Australian Music Examinations Board and helped to inaugurate demonstration recitals for teachers in country towns. Frank Hutchens was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1939 and a Bard of Cornwall. He became a vice-president of the Musical Association of New South Wales in 1940, a member of the advisory panel that controlled the Conservatorium in 1946 and was a director of the Australasian Performing Right Association in the 1950s. Hutchens was also a professor at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and an adjudicator of many eisteddfods. After visiting Japan, towards the end of his life, Hutchens became very interested in the music of Asia, and was a strong advocate for Australia to establish stronger musical ties with China and Japan. As well, he performed for all his life as a soloist, duo pianist and partner for many instrumentalists and singers.
He died on 18th October 1965 at the age of 73 after a car accident.
(Extracts taken from biographical notes by Jeanell Carrigan. See The Composers’ Series)