Felix Werder, AM (24 February 1922 – 3 May 2012) was a German-born Australian composer of classical and electronic music, and also a noted critic and educator. The son of a distinguished liturgical composer, he composed all his life. His published and recorded music includes symphonies, chamber music for all combinations, solo concerti, choral works and operas.
Werder was born in Berlin, Germany as Felix Bischofswerder, the son of the composer Boaz Bischofswerder, who was a member of Arnold Schoenberg's circle. He studied Fine Arts and Architecture in London before arriving in Australia in 1940 on the HMT Dunera, along with his father, leaving Germany because of their Jewish heritage. They were interned at a camp in Tatura, Victoria for the duration of World War II. In 1943, he wrote his first symphony. In 1949 his father died.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, Werder wrote seven operas, which were popularly received. His opera Private was commissioned for television by the ABC and was broadcast in 1969. He also wrote works for Deutsche Oper Berlin and Opera Australia among others.
Werder lived in Melbourne and his teaching included influential courses in electronic music and sound synthesis, although he was somewhat bitter at never having been offered an academic position at one of Melbourne's tertiary institutions. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1976 and received the Stamitz Performance Prize (1984), the Australia Council Fellowship (1986), and the Arts Guild of Germany Composition Prize and the Stamitz Prize in 1988, and an honorary doctorate in Music from the University of Melbourne.
He formed the performance ensemble Australia Felix, which toured Europe, and included Bruce Clarke, Merlyn Quaife, Brian Brown, Alex Grieve, Judy Easton, Tony Conolan, Kevin Makin and Peter Clinch. For many years, during the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote music criticism for the Melbourne newspaper The Age.
On 24 February 2012 a concert was held at the Iwaki Auditorium, Melbourne, to celebrate Werder's 90th birthday. The concert included the premiere of three new works: "Ill-Tempered Clavier" (2009) and "Dice" (2010)", both performed by Michael Kieran Harvey; and "H Factor", a work that Werder said would be his final composition, performed by the Silo String Quartet. Also, percussionist Eugene Ughetti performed "Quinney on the Roof" and "Recipe for Disaster"; Warren Burt presented a digital restoration of Werder's 4-speaker piece for analogue synthesizer "The Tempest", originally recorded and released in 1974.
Felix Werder died in Melbourne on 3 May 2012. He was aged 90.
In 1976, aged 54, he married the widowed Vera Phillip, whose first husband had been on the Dunera with Werder. Vera's family were also refugees from Europe in the 1930s.
- Kisses for a Quid (1961)
- The General (1966)
- Agamemnon (1967)
- The Affair (1969)
- Private (1969)
- The Vicious Square (1971)
- The Conversion (1973)
- 1973 LP Felix Werder's Banker, Discovery Stereos GYS 001 (Greg Young Production)
- 1974 LP Music by Felix Werder, Volume 2, Mopoke GYS 002 (Greg Young Production)
- 1977 LP Agamemnon
- 1970s LP Requiem
- 1992 CD Machine Messages, ACMA Vol 1
- 2007 CD The Tempest/Electronic Music, (reissue compilation)
Awards and nominations
The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). They include the Classical Music Awards which are distributed by APRA and the Australian Music Centre (AMC).
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- "Werder, Felix, AM". It's an Honour. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
- Resonate magazine
- Opera Glass
- Archive of Australian Judaica
- Warren Burt, Obituary: "Champion of the new tweaked conservative noses", Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2016
- Australia Music profile
- Conversation with Philip Czaplowski, 2010
- Boss Publishing All Rights Reserved. "Bruce Clarke In Conversation". Guitarteacher.com.au. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "ABC Classic FM - Australian Music - Felix Werder at 90". Abc.net.au. 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
- "ABC Classic FM - New Music Up Late - Happy Birthday Felix!". Abc.net.au. 2012-02-25. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
- "LP: Agamemnon / Felix Werder. : Product". Australian Music Centre. 1977-06-01. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
- "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 20 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- "Classical Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
- "2004 Winners - Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 7 September 2010.