Woman Glanville-Hicks, Peggy (1912 - 1990)

St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Composer and Music Critic

Written by Dorothy Erickson, Independent Scholar

Peggy Winsome Glanville-Hicks was born in St Kilda, Melbourne, in 1912 to English-born Ernest Glanville Hicks, a journalist and his New-Zealand-born wife, Myrtle, who was an amateur singer and artist. Peggy began composing at the age of seven. She was educated at Milverton, the Methodist Ladies' College and Clyde School, Woodend and studied composition with Fritz Hart at the Albert Street Conservatorium. At the age of nineteen she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London where she was taught composition by Vaughan Williams, piano by Arthur Benjamin and conducting by Constance Lambert and Malcolm Sargent. Like many Australians who achieved in the music world before the advent of air travel, she remained overseas to further her career. Her early works included the opera Caedmon (c.1936), music for film, and the Spanish Suite (c.1935). The Octavia travelling scholarship enabled her to study with Egon Wellesz in Vienna (1936) and Nadia Boulanger in Paris (1937). Several of her songs were published in Louise Dyer's Editions de l'Oiseau-Lyre in Paris. Dyer's recording company released the Choral Suite in 1940. In 1938 she married Stanley Richard Henry Bate, an English composer. Two years later a British Council grant allowed them to travel to Australia, following which, in 1941, they sailed for the United States of America. The couple settled in New York where the major part of Glanville-Hicks' composing was undertaken. In 1947 Glanville-Hicks became the music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, a position she retained for ten years. She was a sensitive and perceptive writer on modern music, showed an interest in young composers and became involved in promoting avant-garde music, organising seasons at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and presentations at festivals. Her circle included Yehudi Menuhin and composers Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles and Colon McPhee. She became an American citizen in 1949, and in the same year obtained a divorce from Bate. In 1952 she married Rafael da Costa, a journalist in New York; they divorced the next year.

The 1950s brought Glanville-Hicks to prominence as a composer of 'exotic' music and as a catalyst for the performance of new music. Her most performed work, a sonata for harp, was premièred by Nicanor Zabaleta in Caracas (1951) and New York (1952); in 1953 her Letters from Morocco (1952), conducted by Leopold Stokowski, featured in one of the concerts she initiated as a member of the junior council of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1953 she won an American Academy of Arts and Letters award and a commission to write an opera. With libretto by Thomas Mann, the opera Transposed Heads premiered in 1954. Other works included the Etruscan Concerto (1954, written for the pianist Carlo Bussotti), Concertino Antico (1955, for the harpist Edna Phillips), Concerto Romantico (1956, for the violist Walter Trampler) and The Glittering Gate (1956), based on a story by Lord Dunsany. She was supported in 1956-8 by a Guggenheim Foundation award for composition.

At fifty-five Glanville-Hicks suffered a life threatening brain tumour but recovered after surgery and moved to Athens in 1959. She was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1960 to study the musical system of India and a Fulbright in 1961 to study the Demotic system of Greek music. The latter influenced the opera Nausicaa which had a libretto by Robert Graves and was premiered in 1961. Her major works in the 1960s were ballet scores devised in conjunction with choreographer John Butler, though she continued composing orchestral and chamber music. In 1975 she returned to Australia to live permanently settling in Paddington in Sydney. She became a consultant for Asian Music Studies at the Australian Music Centre in Sydney and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music. Blind towards the end of her life she died in 1990. Her music is increasingly being played in Australia and can frequently be heard on the radio station ABC Classic FM.

Published Resources


  • Beckett, Wendy, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Angus & Robertson, Pymble, New South Wales, 1992. Details
  • Hayes, Deborah, Peggy Glanville-Hicks: A Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, United States of America, 1990. Details
  • Murdoch, James, Peggy Glanville-Hicks: A Transposed Life, Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, New York, United States of America, 2002. Details
  • Rogers, Victoria, The Music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Ashgate, Farnham, United Kingdom, 2009. Details

Book Sections

  • Robinson, Suzanne, 'Peggy Glanville-Hicks and the Female Affiliation Complex', in Brenton Broadstock (ed.), Aflame with Music: 100 Years of Music at the University of Melbourne, The University of Melbourne: Centre for the Studies of Australian Music, Melbourne, Victoria, 1996. Details

Online Resources

See also