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Stuart Challender

Stuart Challender
Stuart challender.jpg
Background information
Birth nameStuart David Challender
Born(1947-02-19)19 February 1947
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Died13 December 1991(1991-12-13) (aged 44)
Sydney, Australia
GenresClassical, Opera
Years active1970–1991
Associated actsThe Australian Opera
Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra
Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Stuart David Challender, AO (19 February 1947 – 13 December 1991) was an Australian conductor, known particularly for his work with The Australian Opera, Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Early life

Challender was born in February 1947 at Hobart. His initial passion for music came from his grandmother, Thelma Driscoll, who used to sing to him as a child. In 1960, his father took him to a performance of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony conducted by Tibor Paul,[1] from which he decided to become a conductor.[2]

In 1964, at age 17, Challender attended the Victorian Conservatorium of Music, at the University of Melbourne. From 1966 he worked with the then Victorian Opera Company. In 1968 he graduated from the Conservatorium and was the Victorian Opera Company's music director.[3]

Conducting career

Challender began his professional conducting career in 1970. His first engagement was Kiss Me, Kate, for the Lucerne Opera. He was appointed assistant conductor at the Staatstheater Nürnberg; then came engagements in Switzerland at Zürich and Basel, where he was resident conductor at the Opera House from 1976 to 1980.[2]

Upon returning to Australia from Europe, he joined the staff of The Australian Opera. In late 1980 Challender was assigned to conduct a single performance of The Barber of Seville, and soon after he was appointed resident conductor of the Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra and went on to conduct many of the great standards of opera.[3]

Challender succeeded Zdeněk Mácal as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1987 to 1991, to great acclaim. In Australia's bicentennial year (1988), he led the orchestra in a successful tour of the United States, a 12-city tour that culminated with a concert at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to mark 200 years of European settlement in Australia.[2] He conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Hong Kong in 1989 and in 1990 conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in four concerts.[3] Several recordings which he made with the SSO are still available on commercially released CDs.

On 26 January 1991, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) "in recognition of services to music".[4] The following June, his health visibly failing, Challender conducted his last concert in Hobart, with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.


Challender died of an AIDS-related disease on 13 December 1991.[3] One week later, on 20 December, at the Sydney Town Hall, Justice Michael Kirby led the speakers at a celebration of Challender's life. A seven-minute piece for solo cello by Peter Sculthorpe titled Threnody: In memoriam Stuart Challender was performed by David Pereira.[5]

In his will, Challender provided for the establishment of the Stuart Challender Foundation, to aid the training and development of future Australian conductors. He bequeathed his extensive collection of scores to the Music Library at the University of Tasmania.[2]

Ross Edwards's Symphony No. 1 Da Pacem Domine (1995) was dedicated to Challender's memory.


  1. ^ ABC: Four Corners, 23 August 2001
  2. ^ a b c d "Stuart Challender, 44, Australian Conductor". The New York Times. Associated Press. 14 December 1991. Retrieved 24 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Stuart Challender (23 August 2001). "Reflections from the Nineties: The Big Finish". Four Corners (Interview). Interviewed by Liz Jackson. ABC. Retrieved 24 August 2007.
  4. ^ "It's an Honour – Officer of the Order of Australia". Australian Government. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  5. ^ Chronological List of Works by Peter Sculthorpe Archived 29 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine.

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Zdeněk Mácal
Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Edo de Waart