Composer-pianist Wendy Hiscocks (1963) was born in Wollongong and studied composition with the celebrated Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe at the University of Sydney. In 1988 she moved to London and has received commissions, premières and broadcasts from distinguished soloists, ensembles, choirs and festivals from around the world. These have included Piers Lane and Roy Howat (piano), Rachel Nicholls and Elizabeth Connell (soprano), Madeleine Mitchell (violin), Michael Collins (clarinet), Sydney Chamber Choir, Jesus College Choir (Cambridge), Schubert Ensemble (London), King’s Lynn and Aldeburgh Festivals (UK), Spitalfields Festival (London), Bangor New Music Festival (Wales), Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Amadeus Festival (Geneva), Radio Suisse Romande, Radio France, ABC Radio and TV, BBC Radio 3 and the British Film Institute. She has completed a doctorate on the music of Arthur Benjamin, a subject which is now the focus of a biography she is writing and on whom she has lectured and presented an ABC radio documentary. As a pianist, Wendy has recorded Chabrier’s duo and duet repertoire for Edition Stil with Roy Howat and has performed at venues ranging from London’s Purcell Room to the Kusatsu International Summer Academy and Festival in Japan. She appears as the pianist on a CD of her chamber music recently released by the Symposium label. Her skills as composer-pianist are in demand for silent film accompaniment with appearances at the BFI South Bank, the Barbican, UK Festivals and Welsh National Opera.
Richard Whitehouse - Gramophone
Australian music has really come into its own over the last two decades, with Wendy Hiscocks playing no small part. She studied with Peter Sculthorpe, whose evoking of spatial vistas through his instrumental writing is perceptible not least in ‘Shades of the Alhambra (2009)—five movements for clarinet, cello and piano that render quotes from Washington Irving’s writings into an atmospheric whole...Of the other works, Nocturne (2007) is a deceptively rhapsodic translation of verse by Rabindranath Tagore while Coral Fantasy (1994) elegantly depicts its scenes of marine life within a coral reef against a context of dawn and dusk above the waves. The two vocal items are no less telling in mood: Mother & Child (2000) sets four Tagore poems in a touch evocation of infant wonder and tragedy, whereas Libretto of the Eight Year Old (1999) sets the composer’s recollection of her first trip abroad in a secular cantata recalling such singular works as Barber’s Knoxville and Tippett’s Boyhood’s End.
The performances are as fine as might be expected, given the calibre of the musicians, but a special mention for Rachel Nicholls, whose thoughtful eloquence is at the service of often testing vocal writing...[the balance] between the instruments is unexceptionally fine and the composer’s own booklet-notes are a ready enhancement to listening which is never less than pleasurable.
Andrew Lorenz - Stringendo
‘Shade of the Alhambra’...is wonderfully imaginative with intimate writing contrasting solo and contrapuntal lines with exotic sounding features. The ‘Nocturne’...is a very fine piece of many moods with moments of beauty and power. The piano trio ‘Coral Fantasy’ describes a magical world—a ballet of life under the sea. Each work would be a welcome and refreshingly different contribution to a recital programme.
Darryl Coote - Victorian Music Teachers’ Association Journal
Hiscocks’s compositional style is individual, dramatically reflective of text and title...This disc is definitely recommended listening for those seeking contemporary works that are fresh and attractive.
John York - Piano Magazine
Wendy Hiscocks is a composer of great finesse, well-tuned to the fantasy world of children, and her works for young pianists ‘Two Pieces for Cordelia’ and ‘Light’ are delightful, exquisite miniatures worthy to stand beside the classic children’s repertoire. She understands and nurtures piano colour, something often neglected or even negated by new composers...for more advanced pianists there is a suite of four pieces: ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and a searching piano trio ‘Coral Fantasy’—I found a lot to savour in this compelling music.
The West Australian (Perth Festival)
Wendy Hiscocks’s ‘Coral Fantasy’, inspired by visits to coral reefs in Hawaii and Australia, inhabits a very different sound world. It’s a delight, in turn restful and turbulent, with brief obeisances to Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and frequent changes of tempo, (and pleasingly varied tonal colourings to add to the listening experience), Hiscocks’s pieces has an unpretentious charm and immediacy.
For more information about Wendy’s work, please see her website: www.wendyhiscocks.com
Photograph by Peter Nolan 2014
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