Larry Sitsky AO
Larry Sitsky, born in China of Russian-Jewish parents, traveled to Australia in 1951 and settled in Sydney. He studied piano from an early age and was granted a scholarship to the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, where he studied piano and composition, graduating in 1955. Post-graduate studies continued with the distinguished Australian pianist and teacher, Winifred Burston. In 1959 he won a scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory, where he studied with the great Egon Petri for two years. Returning to Australia, he joined the staff of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. A grant from the Myer Foundation in 1965 enabled him to conduct research into the music of Ferruccio Busoni, on whom he has written extensively. In 1966 he was appointed Head of Keyboard Studies at the School of Music in Canberra (now part of the Australian National University), where he was later Head of Musicology, Head of Composition Studies, Head of Academic Studies and now Distinguished Visiting Fellow, as well as Emeritus Professor.
Larry Sitsky was the first Australian to be invited to the USSR on a cultural exchange visit, organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1977. He has received many awards for his compositions, including the A.H.Maggs award twice: for his Violin Concerto No.1 in 1971 and the Clarinet C Concerto in 1981; the Alfred Hill Memorial Prize for his String Quartet No.1 in 1968 and a China Fellowship in 1983. His work Maherq, for bassoon, won the inaugural prize awarded by the Fellowship of Composers in 1989, and his Secret Gates of the House of Osiris won the inaugural National Critics’ Award in 1989. In 1984 he received the inaugural Australian Composer’s Fellowship presented by the Music Board of the Australia Council. This gave him the opportunity to write a large number of compositions ranging from solo instrumental pieces to large orchestral works, including a Second Violin Concerto (Gurdjieff), Concerto for guitar and Orchestra, Concerto for orchestra (Completion and Realization of Busoni’s “Fantasia Contrappuntistica”) as well as work towards a number of operas. It also enabled him to revise his book Busoni and the Piano and to commence work as pianist on the Anthology of Australian Piano Music. Other books from that poeriod include the 2-Volume The Classical Reproducing Piano Roll, and Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929. He recorded a CD of the complete sonatas of the Australian composer Roy Agnew, among a number of CDs of Australian piano music.. Larry Sitsky was the recipient of a Fulbright Award in 1988-1989 and won an Advance Australia Award for achievement in music in 1989.
He has had works commissioned by many leading Australian and International bodies, such as the ABC, Musica Viva, the International Clarinet Society, the Sydney International Piano Competition, Flederman and the International Flute Convention. Works from the 90s include a Piano Concerto, In Pace Requiescat for voice and strings, a Trio for flute, clarinet and piano and a Book of Songs for voice and piano.
1993 marked a huge national success with his opera The Golem, whilst 1994 was noted by concerts and performances all round Australia to mark his 60th birthday. His big collection of teaching pieces, Century, was written at this time, as well as an open-ended contract with Seesaw Music in New York.
In recognition of his various achievements, he was granted a Personal Professorial Chair at the Australian National University, and was awarded the University’s very first Higher Doctorate in Fine Arts in 1997. A biography was published in the USA in 1997.
In 1998 he was elected Fellow of the Academy of Humanities of Australia, and 2000 he became a member of the Order of Australia.
More recent books include Anton Rubinstein and Australian Piano Music of the 20th Century. In the opening years of the 21st century, various honours and celebrations were showered on the composer, especially during his 70th birthday year in 2004. Two symphonies appeared during this time. The National Library of Australia published Jim Cotter’s book LARRY SITSKY: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE COMPOSER.
Sitsky is currently Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University. In 2006 he was recipient of another Large ARC Grant to further his research into Australian music, and his massive work for solo piano, THE WAY OF THE SEEKER, received enthusiastic premieres in Canada and Australia.
In 2007, he completed Busoni’s opera Dr.Faust; he also signed a contract with Pendragon Press for a new book on the music of Busoni. Pendragon in the same year reprinted Sitsky’s early book “Busoni & the Piano” as part of their Distinguished Reprints Series.
In the same year, Sitsky’s concerto for Double-Bass & Ensemble (Beowulf) was premiered in the Netherlands.
Dr.Judith Crispin’s book on the Busoni-Sitsky Esoteric Tradition came out in the UK late in 2007.
Larry Sitsky was the keynote speaker at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference, Canberra, 2007.
National Library of Australia celebratory concert/event for 75th birthday, 2009. The 2017 Australia Day honours list has recognised composer, Emeritus Professor Larry Sitsky 'for his distinguished service to the arts as a composer and concert pianist, to music education as a researcher and mentor, and through musical contributions to Australia's contemporary culture'. Sitsky was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
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