Composer and pianist Michael Dooley studied classical composition and piano performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with leading Australian composer Ross Edwards. Since then he has become one of the most engaging and accessible composers in Australia. Based in the ACT, his compositions are becoming increasingly popular among performers and audience members. Last year saw the launch of his ‘Anachronisms Suite’ This year he will be composing his first piano concerto for Sydney-based pianist Andrew Rumsey. He is currently creating sketches for a newly commissioned piece for the Canberra Wind Symphony.
“It’s hard to pin down my all time favourite recording, but one I can highly recommend is Ross Edward’s piano concerto. Performed by Dennis Hennig and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Myer Fredman. Apart from the scintillating performance by Hennig and the QSO, one thing I love about this piece is the sheer courage it must have taken Ross Edwards to compose it. I studied under him a few years before he wrote it, and I know the academic atmosphere at the time was very heavily influenced by serialism and the “avant-garde”. This delightful, tonal, lyrical, nature inspired piece was such a refreshing change. Predictably enough it drew criticism from the “orthodox modernists”. But it remains a very popular work in the Australian repertoire. It is also an inspiration for me as I am currently composing my own first piano concerto for my dear friend Andrew Rumsey.”
Ross Edwards’s Piano Concerto has a history of controversy. Initially rejected in the 1980s by orthodox modernists (notably at its London premiere in 1988), it has always been embraced by the public and, recently, by a new generation of open-minded critics. Quirky, raucously exhilarating, at times almost nostalgically lyrical, it has kept listeners on their toes for more than two decades and remains one of the most popular compositions by an Australian composer. Ross Edwards’s Piano Concerto was commissioned by the Australia Council for Dennis Hennig, to whom it is dedicated, and who was soloist in the first performance in 1983 with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Werner Andreas Albert. In 2003 Edwards was commissioned by Ars Musica Australis to revise the work especially for performances in Australia and Italy in 2004 by Sydney Youth Orchestra conducted by Tom Woods with soloist Ian Munro.