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Peggy Winsome Glanville-Hicks (29 December 1912 – 25 June 1990) was an Australian composer.

Peggy Glanville-Hicks
Peggy Glanville-Hicks 1948.png
Peggy Glanville-Hicks in 1948
Peggy Winsome Glanville-Hicks

(1912-12-29)29 December 1912
Died25 June 1990(1990-06-25) (aged 77)
Era20th century


Peggy Glanville Hicks was born in Melbourne in 1912 (she later hyphenated her surname). At age 15 she began studying composition with Fritz Hart in Melbourne. She also studied the piano under Waldemar Seidel. She spent the years from 1931 to 1936 as a student at the Royal College of Music in London, where she studied piano with Arthur Benjamin, conducting with Constant Lambert and Malcolm Sargent, and composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams. (She later asserted that the idea that opens Vaughan Williams' 4th Symphony was taken from her Sinfonietta for Small Orchestra (1935), and it reappears in her 1953 opera The Transposed Heads.)[1] Her teachers also included Egon Wellesz.

She was the first Australian composer whose work was performed at an International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) Festival (1938). This was her Choral Suite.

From 1949 to 1958 she served as a critic for the New York Herald Tribune, succeeding Paul Bowles, working under Virgil Thomson. At the same time she continued composing and was musical director at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[2] She took out U.S. citizenship during this time.[3] After leaving America, she lived in Greece from 1957 to 1976. In the United States she asked George Antheil to revise his Ballet Mécanique for a modern percussion ensemble for a concert she helped to organize before returning to Australia in the late 1970s.[4] She lost her sight in the last years of living in the U.S. as a result of a brain tumour. She had this tumour successfully removed in a marathon operation and regained her sight. However, a result of this operation was her loss of a sense of smell.

She died in Sydney in 1990. Her will established the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers' House in her home in Paddington, Sydney, as a residency for Australian and overseas composers.[5] The organisation New Music Network established the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address in her honour in 1999.[6]


Major works in her output include the Sinfonia da Pacifica, Etruscan Concerto, Concerto romantico, and her Harp sonata which was premiered by Nicanor Zabaleta in 1953 as well as several operas. At the APRA Music Awards of 1996, her Sonata for Harp won Most Performed Contemporary Classical Composition, after it appeared on Marshall Maguire's Awakening.[7] Her best known operas are The Transposed Heads and Nausicaa. The Transposed Heads is in six scenes with a libretto by the composer after Thomas Mann and premiered in Louisville, Kentucky, on 3 April 1954.[8]

Nausicaa was composed in 1959–60 and premiered in Athens in 1961. The libretto was prepared together with Robert Graves in Majorca in 1956, based on his novel Homer's Daughter.[9] The premiere was a major event in the operatic calendar, and was considered a triumph for Glanville-Hicks, but the opera has never been re-staged.

Her last opera, Sappho, was composed in 1963 for the San Francisco Opera, with hopes that Maria Callas would sing the title role. However, the company rejected the work and it has never been produced.[10] This opera was recorded in 2012 by Jennifer Condon conducting the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Coro Gulbenkian [pt] with Deborah Polaski in the title role.

Private lifeEdit

She was married to British composer Stanley Bate, who was gay,[11] from 1938 to 1949, when they divorced.[12] She married journalist Rafael da Costa in 1952; the couple divorced the following year.[13] She was also involved with Mario Monteforte Toledo and Theodore Thomson Flynn.[14] Like Bate, many of the men with whom Glanville-Hicks was close were gay; she had few intimate female friends, and often dressed in male attire.[15] She was an intimate friend of the expatriate U.S. writer and composer Paul Bowles, and they remained very close all their lives, although their relationship was mainly epistolary after his move to Morocco in 1947.


Peggy Glanville-Hicks in 1938
  • Three Gymnopedies (for oboe, celeste, harp, strings, 1953)[16]
  • Sinfonia da Pacifica (1952–53)
  • Concertino da camera (1946)
  • Letters from Morocco (for tenor and small orchestra)
  • Etruscan Concerto (for piano and chamber orchestra) (1956)
  • Concerto Romantico for viola and chamber orchestra (1956)
  • Caedmon, opera, 1933
  • The Transposed Heads. A Legend of India, opera after the novel Die vertauschten Köpfe by Thomas Mann, 1953
  • The Masque of the Wild Man, ballet
  • The Glittering Gate, opera, 1957
  • Nausicaa, opera, 1961
  • Saul and the Witch of Endor, television ballet, 1964
  • Sappho, opera, 1963, unproduced
  • Tragic Celebration (Jephtha's Daughter), ballet, 1966


  1. ^ Victoria Rogers, The Music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks, p. 30. Retrieved 11 May 2016
  2. ^ "Interesting Women In The News They Are Trying For Political Honours". Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953). 3 August 1952. p. 18. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  3. ^ Covell, Roger. 'U.S. Citizen but the Music is Australian'. The Sydney Morning Herald Weekend Magazine, 13 June 1970.
  4. ^ American Mavericks, Program Notes
  5. ^ "Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers' House Trust". Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  6. ^ The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, New Music Network
  7. ^ "1996 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Archived from the original on 18 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  8. ^ Radic, Thérèse (1992)."Transposed Heads, The". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Online version retrieved 1 March 2018 (subscription required for full access).
  9. ^ "Peggy Glanville-Hicks : Represented Artist Profile : Australian Music Centre". Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Buried symphonies score a chance at resurrection", The Age, 27 July 2007.
  11. ^ Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah (1999). Women in world history: a biographical encyclopedia. 6. Yorkin Publications. p. 276.
  12. ^ "Papers of Peggy Glanville-Hicks MS9083". Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  13. ^ Langmore, Diane; Bennet, Darryl (2009). Australian Dictionary of Biography. 17. Miegunyah Press. p. 441.
  14. ^ Murdoch, James (2002). Peggy Glanville-Hicks: a transposed life. Pendragon Press. p. 109.
  15. ^ Rogers, Victoria (2009). The Music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Ashgate Publishing. p. 50.
  16. ^ Deborah Hayes. "Glanville-Hicks, Peggy." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed 18 October 2017. (subscription required)

Further readingEdit

  • Beckett, Wendy (1992). Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Pymble, NSW: Angus & Robertson. ISBN 0-207-17057-6.
  • Hayes, Deborah (1990). Peggy Glanville-Hicks : A Bio-bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26422-8.
  • Murdoch, James (2002). Peggy Glanville-Hicks: A Transposed Life. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press. ISBN 1-57647-077-6.

External linksEdit