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Shining island : for strings

by Peter Sculthorpe (2011)

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The Australian Music Centre's catalogue does not include any recordings or sheet music of this work. This entry is for information purposes only.

It is listed in our catalogue because an event featuring a performance of this work was included in our calendar of Australian music. Details of this performance are listed below.

Work Overview

I was greatly saddened when I learned that Henryck Górecki had died last November. He and I became good friends in 1994, at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival in Wales. I dearly treasured our friendship. I so much wish that I'd been able to stay with him in his beloved Tatra mountains in southern Poland.

Henryck was always full of bonhomie. Underlying it, however, was a brooding melancholy. This, of course, informs his profoundly-affecting music. As I came to know him better, he'd sometimes mutter 'After bad there is worse.' I'd say, 'Come on, Henryck: after bad there's better.' 'No,' he'd reply, 'after bad there is always worse.' One day, he ventured 'Perhaps for you, coming from that big shining island, in the south, after bad there is better. For me, for many of us here, after bad there is only worse.'

Shining Island is concerned with the emotions contained in the above conversation. In its slowly-moving first part, the downward-turning phrases represent Henryck's voice and the upward-turning phrases mine. Henryck's voice is more impassioned in the second part, which begins with the distant sound of music from the shining island. It was inspired by an Indigenous children's song from Australia's north. Towards the end of the work this music and Henryk's voice become as one. This final section is underpinned by a low 'C' pedal, which I always use to signify god, the god of all beliefs.

— P.S.

Work Details

Year: 2011

Instrumentation: String orchestra.

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: Dedicated to Henryck Górecki

Commission note: Commissioned for Canberra International Music Festival.. Commissioned especially for the 2011 Canberra International Music Festival

First performance: by Canberra Festival Camerata, ANU School of Music Chamber Orchestra, Tor Fromyhr at Henryk's Shining Island (St Christopher's Manuka) on 14 May 2011

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for/to
2012 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Orchestral Finalist Peter Sculthorpe


Resonate article: 2012 Art Music Awards - comments by judging panels by Australian Music Centre

Performances of this work

4 Dec 2015: at Bourbaki Ensemble (St Stephen's Church, Newtown). Featuring Bourbaki Ensemble.

9 Jul 2011: at Ruthless Jabiru at the City of London Festival (Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke's). Featuring Ruthless Jabiru, Kelly Lovelady.

14 May 2011: at Henryk's Shining Island (St Christopher's Manuka). Featuring Canberra Festival Camerata, ANU School of Music Chamber Orchestra, Tor Fromyhr.

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