Featured Composer: Ian Munro


Ian Munro has emerged over recent years as one of Australia’s most distinguished and awarded musicians, with a career that has taken him to thirty countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia. His award in 2003 of Premier Grand Prix at the Queen Elisabeth International Competition for composers (Belgium) is a unique achievement for an Australian and follows on from multiple prizes in international piano competitions in Spain (Maria Canals), Italy (Busoni), Portugal (Vianna da Motta) and the UK, where his second prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1987 established his international profile.

After returning to composition in 1992, following the birth of his first daughter Lucy, Ian quickly developed an interest in music for children. Both ‘Lucy’s Book’ (1993—2006) and the ‘Children’s Concerto’ (1999) reflect an abiding concern with music for children. In 2003 Ian’s piano concerto ‘Dreams’ won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels and was subsequently played by the twelve finalists of the international piano competition. Broadcast across Europe both on radio and television, ‘Dreams’ received its next performance in St Petersburg in Russia with the Hermitage State Orchestra as part of the Musical Olympus Festival. Subsequent commissions from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra through a Symphony Australia residency led to ‘Blue Rags’ (2005), ‘Drought & Night Rain’ (2005) and ‘O Traurigkeit’ (2006), written for soloist Sue-Ellen Paulsen (cello). ‘Blue Rags’ was nominated for APRA Orchestral Work of the Year 2006 and has been recorded for ABC Classics. In its solo piano version it was again nominated for APRA Instrumental Work of the Year 2009. In 2011 he was Featured Composer for Musica Viva’s international season, in which his piano trio ‘Tales from Old Russia’ (2008), String Quartet no.1, Clarinet Quintet and Piano Quintet no.2 were toured by the Eggner Trio, Brentano Quartet, Sabina Meyer and the Modigliano Quartet, and the Goldner Quartet with Munro as soloist.

In 2013, his second string quartet ‘A Colonial Sketchbook’ was performed by the Australia Ensemble strings (Goldner Quartet) and his second piano trio ‘A book of lullabies’ commissioned by John and Jo Strutt, was given its premiere at the Huntington Festival.

Ian Munro's new work Schubertiades was premiered in PLEXUS: Panorama on 21 September 2015 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre.

Schubertiades (2015)

Most of my music of recent years has become a homage of one sort or another, I’ve come to realise. By a certain age, one becomes more aware of the things that are personally important, as well as those that are less so. For me, it is the music I enjoy, and the people I like, rather than those I admire or am told I should appreciate. So it is with Franz Schubert, who was a person I am sure I would have liked, a lot, with his beautiful mind and friendly, humble approach to music and colleagues. The first movement of Schubertiades — the title refers to those pleasant gatherings of a circle of Viennese friends who wrote, played and sang for one another — was written several years ago for the Seraphim piano trio, as a variation on a famous waltz. Since that time, I have wanted to extend it to make something more substantial, by adding complementary song and dance movements, and here, for my friends Monica, Phil and Stefan, I have taken a number of Schubert’s dances for piano and made more music from them. Of course, the vast majority of dances which Schubert wrote were waltzes, but among them are found assorted Ländler (a kind of waltz), minuets, Schottischen (or Ecossaises), Galops and Polonaises, among others. I am not at all sure that Schubertiades won’t keep growing, given such rich and fertile ground. We’ll have to wait and see.

– Ian Munro