PENELOPE THWAITES AM
pianist and composer
Born in Chester UK and resident in London for most of her life, Penelope grew up in Australia, winning first place on graduation in Music from Melbourne University. Her London debut in 1974 at the Wigmore Hall launched an unusually varied career. She has won acclaim not just as an intensely communicative concert pianist and recording artist in a wide repertoire, but as composer, writer and editor, broadcaster and music festival curator. In 2001, she was awarded the Order of Australia for her work. She is recognised internationally as a leading exponent of Percy Grainger’s music, with over 260 tracks recorded, and as editor of The New Percy Grainger Companion. Find out more here
She has played as soloist with such orchestras as the London Philharmonic, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, City of London Sinfonia, Albany Symphony, and most of the leading Australian orchestras.
She has broadcast frequently on the BBC and has devised series where she both introduced the music and performed it. Recent projects included the successful premiere in Canberra of a newly commissioned Missa Brevis, a Grainger week of lectures, coaching and a sold-out concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre with outstanding young musicians of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne. There were also further productions in Germany of her musical ‘Ride!Ride!”. The musical has now exceeded 42 productions, the most recent being in Grand Rapids, USA, November 8-11 2018, when some 3000 people attended the performances (see Compositions).
Marking her poet father’s Centenary in 2015, Penelope returned to Kings Place Concert Halls, London, for a programme of works by Schumann, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Grainger, Handel and others. The music interlaced with the poetry of the distinguished poet Michael Thwaites, the first Australian to win the King’s Medal for Poetry. The programme featured renowned actor Timothy West and the versatile baritone Stephen Varcoe and was also given at Rhodes House, Oxford.
November 2016’s launch of the new Complete Grainger for two pianos was a huge success – Penelope being joined by the outstanding Australian pianist, Timothy Young. The 4 CD Box Set includes the re-issue of the much-admired Pearl Volumes 1,2 and 3 of Grainger’s music for two pianos which Penelope recorded with John Lavender – plus a brand new Volume 4 with Timothy Young. The concert was hosted by Melbourne University in its beautiful Melba Hall. (See a full review of the Box Set in BBC Music Magazine).
On 6 May 2016 at Schott Music London, Penelope presented an exciting programme of her own compositions – choral and solo song – in which she was joined by the Marlborough Singers and soloists, Stephen Varcoe baritone, Colin Milner tenor and Jenna Roubos soprano, to name just a few. The music ranged from traditional English choral style, to folk, and gospel, as well as some melodious instrumental interludes. Click here for details.
While continuing her career as an international concert pianist, Penelope has expanded her work as a composer and has received several new commissions. A new CD of her work will be released early in 2020 on the SOMM label, featuring choir Ex Cathedra & soloists including tenor James Gilchrist.