Four Hands

Four Hands

Larry Sitsky & Adam Cook

Sitsky and Cook have long discussed doing a concert together and have finally collaborated in creating a program of riveting music including the World Premiere of Larry's augmentation of Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica.

Busoni spent 20 years composing and revising this large-scale work composed entirely polyphonically. It is both a celebration of the gradual liberation of tonality and a testament to the greatest of contrapuntalists, J.S. Bach.

Other work on the program includes: Franz LISZT: Les Préludes, after Lamartine, transcribed by the composer; W. A. MOZART trans. BUSONI: Fantasie für eine Orgelwalze, KV608; Francis POULENC: Sonate pour piano a quatre mains, FP8.

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Larry Sitsky's activities as a composer, pianist, writer, broadcaster and teacher place him inevitably to the fore among today's ambassadors of contemporary Australian piano music. Through his work to date he has made a significant contribution to the Australian music tradition.

Larry Sitsky was born in Tianjin (formerly Tientsin), China, of Russian-Jewish émigré parents. He demonstrated perfect pitch at an early age, by identifying notes or chords played in a different room. He studied piano from an early age, gave his first public concert at the age of nine, and started writing music soon thereafter. His family was forced to leave China during Mao's rule. They came to Australia in 1951 and settled in Sydney. He had sat for Cambridge University Overseas Matriculation before leaving China.

His first studies at university were in engineering, at his parents' insistence. This was not successful and "he convinced his parents to allow him to pursue his passion, music". He obtained a scholarship to the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, where he studied piano, briefly with Alexander Sverjensky but mainly with Winifred Burston (a student of Ferruccio Busoni and Egon Petri), and composition, graduating in 1955. In 1959, he won a scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory, where he studied with Egon Petri for two years.

Returning to Australia, he joined the staff of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, after being accepted sight unseen based on a recommendation from Petri. His Australian studies and his subsequent studies in the United States, "combined with the Russian heritage from his early studies in China, [make] him a unique repository of piano techniques and tradition which is acknowledged internationally".

A grant from the Myer Foundation in 1965 enabled him to conduct research into the music of Ferruccio Busoni, on whom he has written extensively. In 1966 he was appointed Head of Keyboard Studies at the Canberra School of Music, was later Head of Musicology and was Head of Composition Studies. He is currently Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Sitsky has always performed as well as composed, and as a student won performance awards. He believes that composers should perform, believing that "without this communion with a live audience, music-making all too easily becomes over-intellectualised, sterile and arid". As a performer, he champions twentieth-century repertoire.

In terms of composition, Sitsky has regularly changed his musical language in order to "express himself in ways that are not familiar and 'easy'".

Adam Cook started playing the piano at a young age and continued through high school, learning both classical and jazz. At the age of 16, as a scholarship student, he moved straight on to study composition at the University of Western Australia, under Prof. Roger Smalley. He also received private lessons in classical piano from Anna Sleptsova.

After playing for Larry Sitsky, Professor Emeritus at the ANU School of Music, Adam was invited to move to Canberra and complete a degree in piano performance. In 2007, he was invited to participate in one year of private study in France with Emeritus Professor of the University of Ottawa, Jean-Paul Sevilla, with whom he completed a Diplôme d’Excellence en Musique. Returning from this trip, Adam completed his Bachelor of Music in piano and French, and is currently enrolled at the ANU in an Honours degree in piano. As part of the degree, he premiered Sitsky’s Sonata No. 2 for piano, composed for Adam in 2010.

Adam Cook composes regularly for his own ensemble. The Monotremes began as a keyboard duo but later evolved into trio with drums, then five-piece with electric bassoon and bass. Bassoon was replaced by trumpet, and in its current manifestation the band has both a trumpet and baritone saxophone. Adam’s compositions experiment with rapidly shifting styles and genres, and are influenced by Adam’s favourite composers, including Bach, Shostakovich, Monk and Zappa.

Updated:  21 October 2013/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications