Michael Smetanin is one of the most distinctive figures among Australian composers. Born in Sydney in 1958 of Russian parents he completed undergraduate study in 1981 and then having been awarded an International Fellowship by the Music Board of the Australia Council and a Netherlands Ministry of Education and Science scholarship went to study with leading Dutch composer Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatorium in the Hague.
While studying in Holland, Smetanin composed The Ladder of Escape for Harry Sparnaay’s “Het Basklarienetten Kollektief” which was premiered at the 1984 Salzburg Aspekete Festival in Austria and has become a classic work for Bass Clarinet being performer by many around the world.
Returning to Australia in 1984 his work continued to gather awards and receive many performances both in Australia and internationally. These include the 1999 Paul Lowin Prize for Orchestral Composition for his work The Shape of Things to Pass….. , the Bremer Podium Konzert in 2000 at Radio Bremen in Germany which was entirely devoted to his music and an appointment to the international jury for the 1999 Gaudeamus International Music Week in Amsterdam.
His largest works are the chamber operas The Burrow and Gauguin and Mayakovsky each with libretti by Alison Croggon. The Burrow is a “psychological profile” of Franz Kafka and created a sensation when it was premiered at the 1994 Perth Festival, with Lyndon Terracini as Kafka.
Gauguin received its first production at the Melbourne Festival in 2000 also to critical acclaim. His involvement with theatre was high lighted at the 2000 Adelaide Festival with the composing of music for the premiere of the epic eight hour long play The Ecstatic Bible by English playwright Howard Barker.
Smetanin’s music has been extensively recorded with works appearing on over 30 individually released CD albums with the title of his work The Ladder of Escape being appropriated as the name of an entire new music CD series released by Attacca records. His recent major works are his Piano Concerto entitled Mysterium Cosmographicum which was premiered by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Lisa Moore and Microgrpahia commissioned by the Schoenberg Ensemble in Amsterdam .
The premiere of his third opera Mayakovsky took place in Sydney in July 2014 and his most recently his 30 minute work Klang-Tek was premiered in Holland in September 2016 while his new piano work Four Angels was premiered by Zubin Kanga on 4 tt December, 2018 while The Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble premiered his large chamber
work Adieu RT (In memorium Richard Toop) in Russia on 26 th October 2019. Michael Smetanin is an Associate Professor in composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music/University of Sydney and has been on staff there continuously since 1988.