Featured Composer: John Polglase


Born in Adelaide in 1959, John Polglase lives and works in Adelaide. He completed both his Bachelor of Music (Honours – Composition) and Master of Music (Composition) at the University of Adelaide, under the supervision of Graeme Koehne and Richard Meale. He has been awarded numerous prizes and scholarships, including the Leonardo Prize, the South Australian Young Composers Competition, the Alex Burnard Scholarship, the Australian Society for Music Education Young Composers Competition, and the Dr Ruby Davies Prize for Composition. He was a founding member and co-director of the Firm, a composers collective in Adelaide, from 1996-2004. He currently lectures in composition at the University of Adelaide, and has also lectured at both Flinders University and the University of South Australia.

The first three movements of John Polglase's Trio No 7 were premiered in PLEXUS: Panopticon on 22 April 2016 at Elder Hall, University of Adelaide. The complete work receives it's premiere in PLEXUS: Perpendicular on 3 December 2018 at the Melbourne Recital Centre Salon.

Trio No 7 (2016)

Many of my recent works have been for large forces and large forms; orchestral overtures, concertos and works of symphonic proportions. This sort of music lends itself to particular ways of working, favouring larger scale planning over impulsiveness and tempering ideas with perhaps more restraint than might otherwise apply. When Monica first approached me in February about composing something for this concert my mind was full of symphonic sound scapes, big orchestral textures and an open ended deadline, one where I could finish whenever I got to the end. As intrigued as I was with the combination of instruments (and trios are amongst my favourite ensembles), I wasn't able to shake myself out of the mindset that a few minutes of music could take several weeks to perfect and that there simply wouldn’t be time to complete something and still allow adequate rehearsal. There’s a lot to be said in favour of writing quickly but it has its own issues, mostly of trust, trust in one’s abilities and craft and that spontaneity can bring with it a freshness that is able to direct its own course. As we talked more I became convinced that revisiting the chamber realm and doing a bit of ‘speed writing’ was not only a good idea, but it would be invigorating.

Today’s music is a part of what will eventually be five movements (at the time of writing, the fourth is virtually complete). I like to have a plan, it gives one something to hang their ideas on and can abandoned the instant it is no longer productive - which most of the time is pretty much straight away. When complete, my latest trio will have two larger, ‘serious’ sounding movements bracketed by a prelude and postlude, being more impulsive and improvisatory in character, together with a central interlude completing the five movement format. In this concert the first three movements will be presented; the Prelude, a ‘Sonata’ (utilising a form I first learned to delight in through the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti) and ending with what will eventually be the central Interlude.

– John Polglase