Image of Richard Divall

Richard Divall, by Londonopera (own work), via Wikimedia Commons

A good friend to State Library Victoria, Maestro Richard Divall sadly passed away on the weekend after a long battle with cancer.

Many people would know Richard as music-director and principal conductor of the Victoria State Opera from the mid-70s through to the mid-90s, a period which saw this state-based company perform a vast array of works rarely if ever performed in Australia; Handel’s Julius Caesar, Bizet’s Pearl Fishers, Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande, Monteverdi’s Return of Ulysses, and way too many more to mention. In many ways he and the Company brought a level of sophistication and adventure to the local music scene which we are still reaping the benefits from today.

As a scholar and musicologist he took great delight in exploring Australia’s vast and untapped history of classical music composition, unearthing long neglected treasures, resuscitating the names of composers lost to history, giving new life to scores safely but silently stored in archive boxes in libraries around the world; a favourite pastime.

Part of his work as one of our Library Fellows saw him create full orchestral performing editions of symphonies by Charles Edward Horsley held in our Manuscripts Collection, a friend of Mendelssohn and prominent on the Melbourne music scene in the 1860s; one of these scores was totally unknown anywhere, and Richard took great delight in informing the relevant authorities in England of his find.

And always he shared what he discovered, distributing his work to libraries around Australia, and indeed the world, conscious that the work he was doing was for the good of all, and most especially those composers he was honouring. He will be sadly missed.

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