Felix Werder

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Felix Werder AM[1] (24 February 1922 – 3 May 2012[2]) 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.[3]


Werder was born in Berlin, Germany, as Felix Bischofswerder, the son of the composer Boaz Bischofswerder,[4] who was a member of Arnold Schoenberg's circle.[5] 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.[6] They were interned at a camp in Tatura, Victoria for the duration of World War II. In 1943, he wrote his first symphony. In 1946 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.[7]

Werder lived in Melbourne and his teaching included influential courses in electronic music and sound synthesis. His students in the mid-1970s included Ollie Olsen who became a leading figure in Melbourne's little band scene, Whirlywirld and Max Q, and bandmate Arne Hanna.[8] Other students included Andrew Duffield (Models) and Karen Ansel (The Reels).[9]

Werder was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1976.[1] He received the Stamitz Performance Prize (1984), the Australia Council Fellowship (1986), the Arts Guild of Germany Composition Prize (1988), the Stamitz Prize (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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[5] 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.[12]

Werder died in Melbourne on 3 May 2012.[2] He was aged 90.

Personal life[edit]

Whilst in the army in 1944, he married Mena Waten, the sister of the novelist Judah Waten. In 1976, aged 54, he married the widowed Vera Phillip, whose first husband had been on the Dunera with Werder. Her family were also refugees from Europe in the 1930s.[5]


  • Kisses for a Quid (1961)
  • The General (1966)
  • Agamemnon (1967)
  • The Affair (1969)
  • Private (1969)
  • The Vicious Square (1971)
  • The Conversion (1973)
  • Medea (1985)


  • 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[13]
  • 1970s LP Requiem
  • 1992 CD Machine Messages, ACMA Vol 1
  • 2007 CD The Tempest/Electronic Music (reissue compilation[14])

Awards and nominations[edit]

APRA Awards[edit]

The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).[15] They include the Classical Music Awards which are distributed by APRA and the Australian Music Centre (AMC).[16]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2004 Werder Long-Term Contribution to the Advancement of Australian Music[17] Won

Don Banks Music Award[edit]

The Don Banks Music Award was established in 1984 to publicly honour a senior artist of high distinction who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to music in Australia.[18] It was founded by the Australia Council in honour of Don Banks, Australian composer, performer and the first chair of its music board.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1986 Felix Werder Don Banks Music Award awarded


  1. ^ a b "Werder, Felix, AM". It's an Honour. Archived from the original on 4 December 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b Resonate magazine
  3. ^ Opera Glass
  4. ^ Archive of Australian Judaica
  5. ^ a b c Warren Burt, Obituary: "Champion of the new tweaked conservative noses", Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2016
  6. ^ "Felix Werder :: The Tempest/Electronic Music :: POGUS CD 21044-2".
  7. ^ Australia Music profile
  8. ^ Julian Knowles, 'Liminal Electronic Musics: Post-Punk Experimentation in Australia in the 1970s-1980s', Proceedings of the Australasian Computer Music Conference 2008, QUT Digital Repository. Retrieved 5 May 2019
  9. ^ Green, Jonathan (12 November 1981). "Life Style TV Arts Entertainment: Models — Melbourne Pop with a Twitch". The Canberra Times. National Library of Australia. p. 23. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  10. ^ Boss Publishing All Rights Reserved. "Bruce Clarke In Conversation". Guitarteacher.com.au. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  11. ^ "ABC Classic FM - Australian Music - Felix Werder at 90". Abc.net.au. 10 February 2012. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  12. ^ "ABC Classic FM - New Music Up Late - Happy Birthday Felix!". Abc.net.au. 25 February 2012. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  13. ^ "LP: Agamemnon / Felix Werder. : Product". Australian Music Centre. 1 June 1977. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 December 2018. Retrieved 30 September 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 20 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  16. ^ "Classical Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  17. ^ "2004 Winners - Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  18. ^ "Don Banks Music Award: Prize". Australian Music Centre. Archived from the original on 18 August 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2017.

External links[edit]