Photograph courtesy of the Australian Music Centre
Peggy Glanville-Hicks was among the first wave of Australian women composers to achieve a degree of international recognition. Born in the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda, Peggy studied composition with Fritz Hart before travelling to London to study composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music, London. Further scholarships enabled her to extend her studies in Europe with Egon Wellesz in Vienna and Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
In 1938, Glanville-Hicks married for the first time to the English composer, Stanley Richard Bate and the coupled eventually settled in New York. Peggy’s work as a composer was supplemented by her earnings as a writer and as a noted music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. She wrote her first opera Transposed Heads based on a story set in India by Thomas Mann and its first performance in America in 1954 was one of many works in which she explored the merging of eastern and western composition. It was in New York that she befriended Yehudi Menuhin with whom she presented concerts of Indian Music at the Museum of Modern Art and met the conductor, Leopold Stokowski, who performed her Letter from Morocco (1952).
Toward the end of the 1950s, Glanville-Hicks had relocated to Athens where she continued her study of the Greek arts and Greek demotic music funded by various awards and fellowships. The fruits of her study were clearly audible in her next opera, Nausicaa (1960); its staging at the Athens Festival the following year and its recording and broadcast in America brought her further recognition. She composed another opera, Sappho, as well as numerous ballet scores before surgery for a pituitary tumour brought her work as a composer to a close in the late 1960s. She returned to Australia for the last fifteen years of her life during which she worked as a consultant for Asian Music Studies at the Australian Music Centre in Sydney.