Music Australia News

Competition Boosts Repertoire For Guitar and String Quartet

Matt Withers and Acacia Quartet Image Credit: Matt Withers
Graham Strahle
| May 23, 2018

The winner of the 2018 Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition is shortly to be announced, and here we provide an update on this competition ahead of revealing the results. This year it has been significantly expanded with the inclusion of Acacia Quartet, backing from ABC Classics, and a further boost in prize money.

Canberra guitarist Matt Withers began his competition in 2014, at a time when this country was experiencing “a renaissance in new music for guitar”, as he then described it.

This renaissance has in no small measure been due to the commissioning initiatives of Guitar Trek, the group to which he still belongs, which in its three decades of existence has been responsible for adding some 40 pieces from Australian composers to the guitar repertoire.

The Australian Music Composition Competition has generated further significant new solo works, notably Jack Frerer’s ‘House Away From Home’ and James Mountain’s ‘Between Tall Trees’, which took out first prize in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

This year however, Withers has decided that it is time to extend the repertoire in a different way by incorporating the classical guitar within a chamber music setting – hence the involvement of Acacia Quartet. Original compositions for guitar and string quartet were fielded this time around in the biennial competition.

A unique feature of the Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition that stayed the same this year was that it invited applicant to find inspiration in water colour paintings by Queensland based visual artist, Sue Needham.

Withers describes the quality of the 30 entries received this year as “incredible” and says: “It is extremely exciting to see the calibre of the competition so high and to be selecting the very best works being written today for the ensemble combination of guitar and string quartet”.

Entries closed in April and the judges are presently down to a shortlist. The winner will receive $2,000, and there are further prizes for second place-getter and best emerging composer entry.

ABC Classics have got behind the competition this year. “A thrilling addition to this year’s competition is the commercial studio recording which will be digitally distributed by ABC Classics with limited edition physical copies available for pre-order soon,” Withers says.

Withers and Acacia Quartet will perform the winning works, along with other works by Robert Davidson and the late Phillip Houghton, in three concerts entitled Imaginations  in Canberra on 18 August, Sydney on 2 September, and Melbourne on 22 September. Look here for details.

Update: First Prize went to Wade Gregory for his composition Water Music, Second Prize to Rick Alexander for Storming, and Emerging Composer prize Nava Ryan for Solitude.

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