Peter Sculthorpe – The Quartets

Featuring the Goldner Quartet

A celebration of the life, personality and work of a great Australian as he enters his eighty-fourth year through the prism of the wonderful Quartets.

This 75 minute concert feature, directed by John Weiley will world premiere as part of the 2013 Melbourne Festival at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation  Square on October 22, followed by a broadcast on ABC1 on Sunday October 27 at 3pm.

Goldner QuartetViolin

Peter SculthorpePeter Sculthorpe is described as “One of the world’s great living composers” (Gramophone magazine).

Sculthorpe has collaborated with the Award-winning Australian ensemble the Goldner String Quartet for many years. As Peter often says, “They are great musicians, great friends, and they are also Australian.  When I write a piece inspired by desert birds, they know what it should sound like”.

Peter Sculthorpe – The Quartets began at a Goldner Quartet concert, where in an impromptu moment Peter began explaining the background to the string quartets that had been inspired by important developments in his life. He came to realise that the quartets together formed a kind of musical biography spanning 70 years of composition in its most demanding and personal form.

Filmed by some of Australia’s most distinguished filmmakers, this special concert was performed by the Goldner Quartet on Sculthorpe’s 83rd birthday. Between movements selected from fifteen of his quartets composed between 1948 – 2010, Sculthorpe talks about his life and music and the inspiration that has driven each composition.

Peter Sculthorpe – the Quartets Screening at ACMI is jointly presented by ABC Arts and Melbourne Festival.

For publicity stills and interview enquiries please contact Tabitha Howard on or 0421655623


Peter Sculthorpe: – the star:  Certainly one of Australia’s greatest composers – but also a consummate raconteur.  Peter celebrated his 83rd birthday on the 29th of April 2012 with a performance of the string quartets to mark the key moments and concerns of his life – his “autobiography in music”.

The Goldner String Quartet: co-star – respected worldwide, particularly interested in 20th and 21st century music, their recording of the music of Ernest Bloch rated by the BBC “one of the year’s top three releases”.

John Weiley – Producer/Director/Writer: Weiley was Writer/Director of one of the world’s highest grossing nonfiction films, “Antarctica”, a producer for BBCTV music and arts (youngest ever) and winner of the AFI award for “Journey Among Women” which he wrote and produced. Weiley was inducted into the Giant Screen Cinema Hall of Fame and Elected to membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Peter James – Cinematographer: Recent work includes “Mao’s Last Dancer” but is also recognised for his work on “Driving Miss Daisy” and many other great films. James is a winner of 3 AFI awards for best cinematography and an Inductee into the ACS Hall of Fame. He is acknowledged by his peers as the master of light.

THE EVENT and THE FILM (Notes by John Weiley).

A couple of years ago the Goldner String Quartet featured the string quartets of Peter Sculthorpe at the annual Townsville Chamber Music Festival.

Sculthorpe was on stage throughout the performance and in the breaks explained to the audience that the string quartets uniquely and quite distinctly told the story of his life – from a boy growing up in rural Tasmania to his discovery of the music of aboriginal Australia and of South East Asia – going on to international recognition as a major composer.  I am unaware of this ever having been done before – a composer opening up for us like this – telling us just where his music came from – relating experience directly to sound. The event was a huge success but unfortunately it was not recorded.

With the participation of Sculthorpe and Goldner they repeated the performance, this time we recorded it on Peter’s 83rd birthday on Sunday the 29th of April, 2012. The record was expanded and enriched with images that illuminate or counterpoint Peters’ music and his stories.  The project succeeded in creating a film that delights music lovers, entertains anyone interested in the life of an Australian composer – and is also an enduring record of the life, personality and work of a great Australian as he entered his eighty-fourth year.

The event was staged in the Trackdown recording studio on the Fox lot – a “professional” but still casual setting. About 100 supporters/fans were seated casually at round tables with Peter and the quartet on stage – Peter off to one side with a stool to rest on during the music, a neutral background which in post production came alive with images related to Peter’s stories – acting as a kind of doorway into the past or to places far away.  Peter James lit the space appropriately as a relaxed private event. It was shot with three cameras throughout to be ready to capture impromptu moments as well as a complete record of the performance.

The evening finished with a surprise for Peter – the presentation of a birthday cake along with Happy Birthday performed by the Goldners ‘Sculthorpe style’….

Links for Reference

Peter Sculthorpe –

The Goldner String Quartet –

Cinematographer Peter James –

Director John Weiley  -