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Tuesday 15 September 2015
Professor Roger Smalley (1943 -2015)
We are sorry to report the death of RCM alumnus, Roger Smalley, on 18 August 2015. He was a hugely prominent and distinctive figure in contemporary music, both as a composer and a pianist.
Born in Swinton, near Manchester, in 1943, Roger Smalley started learning the piano at a young age. His father, a head teacher, would reportedly lock the piano in order that he should do some homework. He won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in 1961, where he studied the piano with Antony Hopkins and composition with Peter Racine Fricker and John White.
Following an appointment as Artist in Residence at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1968 he then took a short composer residency at the University of Western Australia, later emigrating to Australia in the mid-1970s. He subsequently continued to enjoy a career as an academic at the same University, later moving to Sydney in 2007. In this time, he became a significant figure in Australian musical life, and his adopted country featured prominently in some of his works, notably Accord for two pianos (1975), inspired by the view from Perth and Didgeridoo (1974) for four track tape.
In 1989 he became the first artistic director and conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s 20th Century Ensemble. He received the Australian government centenary medal in 2004 and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011.
He was awarded the RPS prize for his orchestral work Gloria Tibi Trinitas. He received numerous prestigious commissions, made many recordings and his works were performed and broadcast worldwide. His own performance of his Piano Concerto was the recommended work in the UNESCO Composers’ Rostrum in 1987 – the first time the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s entry made it to the top of the list.