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Elena Kats-Chernin : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Autumn (solo piano) by Elena Kats-Chernin, from the CD Butterflying

Photo of Elena Kats-Chernin

Born in 1957 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Elena Kats-Chernin received training at the Gnessin Musical College before immigrating to Australia in 1975. She graduated from the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music in 1980 and was awarded a DAAD (German academic exchange) grant to study with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover. She remained in Germany for 13 years, returning in 1994 to Australia where she now lives in Sydney.

Elena Kats-Chernin has created works in nearly every genre. Among her many commissions are pieces for Ensemble Modern, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian World Orchestra, the Adelaide, Tasmanian, Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the North Carolina Symphony.

Her colourful, energetic, and often propulsive music has been choreographed by dance-makers around the world. In 2000 she collaborated with leading Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard on Deep Sea Dreaming which was broadcast to an audience of millions worldwide as part of the opening ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Works from the following years include the concerto for basset clarinet and chamber orchestra Ornamental Air which has been toured internationally and also released on CD for Chandos by Michael Collins and Five Chapters, concerto for saxophone quartet and orchestra, composed for the Rascher Saxophone Quartet. For the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and choir, she composed Prelude and Cube in 2015.

Kats-Chernin's music continued to be heard on TV and at the cinema in the UK with the long-running Lloyds TSB advertising campaign 'For the journey…' employing Eliza Aria from her ballet music to Meryl Tankard's Wild Swans. Her piece Russian Rag became Max's theme in the claymation film Max & Mary by Adam Elliott.

In 2011 Kats-Chernin was appointed composer in residence with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Her first symphony, Symphonia Eluvium for organ, choir and orchestra, commemorating the devastating Queensland floods of January 2011, was premiered that year by QSO conducted by Asher Fisch at the Brisbane Festival. In 2012, the work was voted by the readers of the Australian monthly arts magazine Limelight as the best composition of the year.

Elena Kats-Chernin is one of the subjects of a Creative Minds 6-episode series of artist portraits. The documentary by Robin Hughes was made for Australian TV's STUDIO channel. A double CD of her complete music for string quartet, performed by Acacia, was released under the title Blue Silence by Vexations840 in 2012.

One of Elena Kats-Chernin's most recent major premieres was her adaptation of Monteverdi's three operas (Orpheus, Odysseus, Poppea) at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Barrie Kosky, in September 2012 - a 12-hour marathon performance with live telecast on 3sat TV.

In January 2014, her music for the drama Frankenstein at the Sydney Ensemble Theatre won jointly the Sydney Theatre Award 2013 for the Best Score. In March 2014 she was a joint winner of Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award.

Her opera Schneewittchen und die 77 Zwerge opened at Komische Oper Berlin on the 1st November 2015. The dance piece Three Dancers, choreographed by Didy Veldman to Elena' Kats-Chernin's music, had been premiered at Sadler's Wells by Rambert Dance Theatre Company, London, on the 3 November 2015.

Her TV opera in 4 episodes The Divorce was nominated for ACCTA (The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards) in the category Best Music for Television. It was produced by the Opera Australia, ABC TV and Princess Pictures and broadcast in December 2015 on ABC TV. The cast included Kate Miller-Heidke and Meow Meow.

Among her most recent premieres was The Witching Hour, a highly acclaimed concerto for eight double basses for the Australian World Orchestra, performed at the Sydney Opera House in September and at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore in October 2016. Her Singing Trees for the Australian Chamber Orchestra was premiered in December 2016 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

In 2016 Shobana Jeyasingh's dance work Material Men redux was premiered with Elena Kats-Chernin's score performed by Smith String Quartet. The original, shorter version of this piece, titled Material Men, was premiered a year earlier at the Southbank Centre in London.

Kats-Chernin's CD Butterflying (piano works for 4 hands, with Tamara-Anna Cislowska, ABC Classics) was at the top of ARIA Classical Core Chart for 13 weeks, reaching number 1 in September 2016. Her most recent recording Unsent love letters-meditations on Erik Satie (Tamara-Anna Cislowska, piano solo, on ABC Classics) debuted at number 1 on the ARIA Classical Chart in March 2017. In April 2017 this album got released on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

In 2017 she is a composer in residence with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, with five performances of her work, including two premieres (harpsichord concerto Ancient Letters and Big Rhap in May 2017).

Elena Kats-Chernin's music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes.

Biography provided by the composer — current to June 2017

Studied with

Richard Toop


Teacher/Influence on

Jennifer Hankin

Peggy Polias (2003 - current)

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2019 Order of Australia Officer of the Order of Australia For distinguished service to the performing arts, particularly to music, as an orchestral, operatic and chamber music composer.
2019 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Orchestral Finalist Piano concerto no. 3
2017 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Orchestral Finalist The Witching Hour
2014 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award Winner (joint)
2013 Sydney Theatre Awards - Best Score or Sound Design in a Mainstage Production Winner Frankenstein (Elena Kats-Chernin and Daryl Wallis)
2011 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Orchestral Finalist Golden kitsch
2004 Helpmann Awards Winner, Best Original Score Wild swans
1996 Jean Bogan Prize for Piano Composition Winner Charleston noir
1996 Classical Music Awards - Best Composition by an Australian Composer Winner Cadences, deviations and Scarlatti

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Beaver blaze : chamber ensemble Commissioned by Betty Beaver.
Interludes and rags : chamber ensemble Commissioned by 2MBS-FM Radio (Sydney).
Birthday miniature : chamber ensemble Written in honour of the Australia Ensemble's 30th season
Obsidian Light : full orchestra Commissioned by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
The Little Green Road to Fairyland (soprano with chamber orchestra) Re-commissioned as a co-production between Queensland Music Festival and Queensland Ballet
Prelude and Cube : SATB choir with orchestra Commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Analysis & Media

Book: Women of note : the rise of Australian women composers / Rosalind Appleby.

Kit: Inventing Elena : the music of Elena Kats-Chernin / music resource kit by Mark Grandison

Kit: Clocks : the music of Elena Kats-Chernin / devised by Stephen Lalor.

Book: A study of bricolage in Elena Kats-Chernin's opera Iphis / Jane Stanley.

- Article: Regaining lost composure.

- Document: Profile -Rita Williams talks with composer Elena Kats-Chernin, equally at home writing for the concert hall and for the theatre.

- Program note: Elena Kats-Chernin's "Clocks"

- Article: Knowing the score

- Article: Can't stop the music

- Article: Notable Success

- Article: Sound of music for Sunday's silent stars

- Article: Performers sound out line-up for music festival

- Article: Elena's music is all remarkably composed

- Article: Women of note

- Program note: Gone with the Waltz

- Review: M for Murder The Song Company 20,21 June 1997

- Review: M for Murder The Song Company 20, 21 June 1997

- Review: The Song Company Viewing 30 May 1999