Don’t sideline music practice, says Woodward

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Roger Woodward, image by Boris Eldagsen
“TO sideline performance practice or to separate theory from the practice of making music would be a disaster for the School of Music in the nation’s capital,” the legendary Australian pianist Roger Woodward has told “CityNews”.

Mr Woodward discussed the issue in an interview about his June 7 concert at the Canberra Theatre.

In his view, if the university has a financial problem preventing it from offering the full music curriculum, the order of priorities needs revisiting and necessary funds found from government and corporate sectors.

“Our students have a right to an education as well as their music education and a way needs to be found to finance the ANU so that the full range of academic and performance courses is not excluded,” he said.

Mr Woodward looked back at the history of music education, arguing that “ever since the Quadrivium [the Renaissance concept of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy studies] the theory and practice of music was taught in Western universities involving one-to one instructor-student relationships”.

In his own case, he said he had attended the Eugene Goossens’ Conservatorium of Music that is now a separate college with its own dean as part of the University of Sydney.

The Conservatorium, he went on, “provided a comprehensive and thorough academic and practical training despite immense post-war financial difficulties. It produced artists like Joan Sutherland who put Australian opera on the world map”.

“Maintaining the Conservatorium orchestra and all the faculty and courses involved with Conservatorium was a colossal struggle but somehow priorities were connected to values that served the students and faculty,” he said.

“Whenever costs rise and public institutions are threatened, administrators need to work harder than they might wish to in order to find the necessary funds. It is not an option to make excuses or to remove or compromise a proper music education simply because it is more difficult than usual to find funds.”

Even during the Great Depression, he said “the necessary funds had to be found”.

Any mature society, he said, must  ensure the protection of cultural expression through its preservation of schools, universities, at least one major art gallery, a Shakespeare company, symphony orchestra and opera and ballet companies working hand in hand with the corporate sector and government.

“Whatever it takes the necessary funds must be found for the ANU School of Music so that it may continue to provide the impressive leadership for which it is so renowned,” he said.

In preparing for his recital,  Mr Woodward told “CityNews”, he had into account the taste of Canberra music lovers, initially planning to add modern works by Xenakis and [Canberra’s Larry] Sitsky to a program of Mozart’s piano sonata K.570, Debussy’s “Estampes”, three Preludes and Fugues from J.S.Bach’s first “Well-Tempered Clavier” and  the legato cantabile of Chopin.

His love of Chopin was well-known, he said, and he had been asked by many Canberra music lovers to consider devoting the entire concert to his music.

Eventually he decided it would be preferable to balance one half of Chopin’s music with that of other composers.

Roger Woodward at the Canberra Theatre,  7.30pm, June 7, bookings to 6275 2700 or


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