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Love List:
Australian Classical

by Sydney Opera House Classical Music producer Casey Green

Love List is our new Spotify series where we ask friends of the Opera House to curate a playlist dedicated to a subject of their choice. This week, our Classical Music producer/aficionado Casey Green has written a Love List to the Australian classical composers that have inspired her and kept her sane in these extraordinary times.

Australian Classical repertoire may be the perfect musical tonic for cabin fever. So much of this music evokes the beauty of our expansive, rugged landscape, anchors us with stories of our heritage or connects us with our rich, diverse community.  This music is dramatic, moving and crafted by some of our finest local classical composers and musicians. No playlist could be long enough to champion them all, but this Love List will set you on a path of discovery (or re-discovery) of our own Australian Classical sound and community. 

Compassion by Nigel Westlake, Lior and Sydney Symphony Orchestra  

"... at times pulsating and riotous, at others reflective and textural, [it] draws upon the myriad of influences the two of us have been able to bring to the table from our incredibly diverse backgrounds."

– Nigel Westlake

Westlake’s Compassion, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Lior is a stunning anthology on empathy and kindness: something we all need right now. Premiered in 2013, this work is cinematic, deeply moving, and a magical antidote to the daily news cycle. 

Lior and Nigel Westlake in the Opera House foyers. Image: Ken Butti

Molly on the Shore by Percy Grainger

“Widely acclaimed as one of the most gifted concert pianists of his generation, [Grainger] earned the equivalent of £60,000 per week, befriended Grieg, Gershwin and Duke Ellington and got married on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl before an audience of 20,000.”

– The Guardian

Until recently, I worked with young musicians in training orchestras and at weekly rehearsals, playing Percy Grainger was always a bit of a meme. Consider Googling him, it should pique your curiosity enough to explore his music. For all his eccentricities, Grainger's work and legacy must be included. Molly on the Shore is a delightful romp. 

Powerhouse by Graeme Koehne

“‘Orthodoxy’ has really been Koehne’s bête noire since he broke new ground in the 1990s with a trio of orchestral showpieces that surprised audiences with their commonplace musical references and powerful rhythms, and simultaneously jilted the academic establishment.”

– Adelaide Review

This rhumba for orchestra is the perfect tune for your post-isolation victory lap when the time comes. Musicians love playing this work, which gives me a special joy when listening to it. It’s a salutation to Looney Tunes cartoon composer Carl Stalling and I can confirm that knowing the players are jamming out to this totally boosts the listening experience. 

Punch by Katy Abbott

“…crackles with jazzy energy.”

– Limelight

This is a lively, bolshie banger! For those with children, this is the perfect short, high energy piece for your bebes to wrestle or interpretive dance to. But a warning, it may also inspire them to start learning a brass instrument. 

Australian Composer Katy Abbott. Image: Nicholas Purcell Photography

The Space Between Stars by Ella Macens 

“…lyrical and expansive”

- Limelight

I met Ella years ago at university, where we attended a couple of composition classes together. She graciously topped the class, and years later hearing her sweeping work The Space Between Stars performed on the Concert Hall stage was momentous. Best paired with breathing exercises. 

Earth Cry by Peter Sculthorpe 

“Already in the midst of the over-confident 1980s, Sculthorpe was also wary that “a bogus national identity and its commercialisation” risked holding Australia back. In response, the darker, environmentally- inspired Earth Cry (1986) was his attempt “to attune ourselves to this continent”.


The list wouldn’t be complete without Sculthorpe. Earth Cry is spine tingling and inspires ideas of Australia’s heritage and vast, dangerous beauty so powerfully. Sculthorpe was inspired by our wild landscapes, so turn to this when you’re pining for a rainforest hike, a swim in the ocean or road trip across the Nullarbor. 

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