Composer out of time

Fremantle Festival 2016: 28 October – 6 November

FREDERICK SEPTIMUS KELLY could have become an Australian icon but, like many of the country’s young men, his legacy was denied by the Great War.

The Sydney-born piano virtuoso was an Oxford graduate and Olympic gold-medal rower, and was awarded for his bravery at Gallipoli, but he died on the Somme in 1916, aged 35.

Kelly, who spent much of his adult life in England where his compositions were met with acclaim, continued composing while in the trenches, and his diary indicates he felt a sense of urgency; he was in a “race against time” which was eventually lost.

ARIA award-winning concert pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska, who is one of five musicians telling Kelly’s story for the Fremantle Festival, says he might have become recognised as one of Australia’s great composers if his life hadn’t been cut short.

• Frederick Septimus Kelly

• Frederick Septimus Kelly

“There are a lot of musicians and artists who died in WWI and that’s really what this project is about; about the cultural loss,” Cislowska says.

She says Kelly’s music has idyllic quality, belying it’s creation in the turmoil of trench warfare.

“I was very touched by how sweet the music was…it tends not to be on the reflective side – it’s dreaming, it’s thinking of other worlds, of pleasure and times that were happy and pleasant.

“There’s not a lot of trauma and angst in the music”, she says.

One of the pieces to be performed is a piano sonata Kelly was working on in the days before his death.

“It’s got a very beautiful, peaceful feel to it, and then it just stops…almost like the flop of a guillotine, because he died almost the next day,” Cislowska says.

Soprano Louise Page, mezzo soprano Christina Wilson, artistic director Christopher Latham, and narrator Carrillo Gantner will perform alongside Cislowska.

Race Against Time
October 30, 7pm
Fremantle Town Hall
Tickets $45.90

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