Composer of the Month: Peggy Glanville-Hicks

Peggy Glanville-Hicks

Music by Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hickswill form part of the CAM concert programme at Wolfson College on 11 May.

Wendy Hiscocks will perform the short piano piece – Prelude for a Pensive Pupil – by Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990), a composer known for her firmly held opinions.

‘It is apparent that leisure and silence are absolute prerequisites for composers if they are to engage fully the many forms of awareness involved in creative activity. This leisure and silence have become the greatest luxuries in the modern world, and composers less than any other group in art or science are able to command it.’

Peggy Glanville-Hicks

Peggy Glanville-Hicks won an international reputation as composer – more especially as an opera composer – and was the first, among the few women in this field, to achieve such distinction.

Born in Melbourne on 29 December 1912, her creative gift was manifest from early childhood, and at the age of 15 she began lessons in composition with Fritz Hart.

In 1931 she won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where for five years she studied with Vaughan Williams (composition), Arthur Benjamin (piano), and with Constant Lambert and later Sir Malcolm Sargent (conducting).

Most of her works were written in America in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and most have been recorded. Her name built steadily through the appearance of works such as the Three Gymnopedie, the Sinfonia da PacificaLetters from MoroccoEtruscan Concerto and Concerto Romantico. But it was The Transposed Heads, her opera with libretto by Thomas Mann, premiered in Louisville in 1954 and New York in 1958, which established her securely in her unique status.

In 1950 she made her home in Athens where she studied the Demotic music of Greece and the musical system of India. In 1976, she returned to Australia and it was in the 1980s that Wendy Hiscocks first met Peggy at Sydney University and continued to visit her at her terraced home in Paddington,  Sydney.’

When Peggy Glanville-Hicks passed away in 1990, she left her home as a gift to future generations of Australian composers, setting up a fund to allow the house to be used for year long residencies.

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