Despite her self-professed shyness, composer Elena Kats-Chernin gave a wonderfully delivered and beautifully crafted Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address on Monday in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Recital Hall East. 

Elena Kats-Chernin. Photo © Vicki Lauren

In her speech, she traced her admirable career to date – from a somewhat accident-prone young girl, enraptured by the piano but growing bored of playing other people’s compositions – to a giant in modern composition. As busy as she’s ever been, Kats-Chernin is currently juggling the writing of several operas for Germany, while anticipating a new production of her rescored version of The Coronation of Poppea.

Mornings, she joked, are spent with hot coffee and cold, crisp manuscript. 

Kats-Chernin also discussed how her son’s diagnosis of schizophrenia made it necessary to change her own practice. It is a fundamental reason why she’s focused so tightly on composition. She also talked about her studies in Germany and Australia. She studied with Helmut Lachenmann, as Richard Toop’s first real composition student, in the very room she was speaking in.