Editing Symphony No. 1 by Robert Hughes: Problems to Solve

Joanna Catherine Drimatis


How many symphonies do you know that have been written by Australian composers? Why do we not hear Australian symphonies that were composed prior to 1960? An interesting example of such a work is the Symphony No.1 (1951rev.1971) by Australian composer Robert Hughes (1912-2007). It is a work that could be seen as a major contribution to the Australian orchestral repertoire, and it raises issues that resonate through the history of that repertory. The work was written for the Commonwealth Jubilee Competition in 1951 and was awarded second prize. The symphony received attention from such distinguished conductors as Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Eugene Goossens and was performed a number of times in the 1950s. The work also prompted Barbirolli to commission a new work from Hughes for the Hallé Orchestra. Since Hughes’s revisions to the symphony, the last being in 1971, there has been little discussion or performance of the work. Why? Like many Australian orchestral works written prior to 1960, the only score available of Hughes’s symphony is still an autograph. The parts have also been copied by hand. Although Hughes was represented by Chappell Music at this time the work was not published. The score in its current state is difficult to read and there are inaccuracies and discrepancies of pitch, accidentals and articulations. In order to generate performances of the symphony, the score and parts need to be re-typeset and edited. The paper will address the variety of problems faced when approaching such a task and present possible solutions in how to overcome them. What is required to present a clean performable version of the work? The issues faced in this project will hopefully generate interest in the music of our past and contribute to preserving and promoting Australia’s musical heritage.


symphony, Hughes, editing

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