Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Elena Kats-Chernin studied music in Moscow, Sydney and Hanover. She has created works across nearly every genre, from intimate compositions for piano to pieces for chamber ensembles, full-scale choir and symphony orchestras as well as ballets and operas. Her music was used at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, 2003 Rugby World Cup and 2018 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. She is a recipient of many prestigious prizes including Green Room, Helpmann, Limelight, Sounds Australian, Sydney Theatre and Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards. In 2019 she was accorded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), one of the country’s highest honours.
The extraordinary reach of Elena Kats-Chernin’s music also spans the worlds of film and television. Eliza Aria, from her score for Meryl Tankard’s ballet Wild Swans (commissioned by The Australian Ballet), was used by British bank Lloyds TSB in their celebrated ad campaign ‘For The Journey’. Her Russian Rag was used in the claymation feature film Mary and Max, by Oscar-winning director Adam Elliot. Both pieces have featured as the theme for Late Night Live on ABC Radio National. Her 10-hour adaptation of Monteverdi’s opera trilogy at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Barrie Kosky, was broadcast live on the 3SAT TV channel across Europe in 2012. Elena Kats-Chernin was also featured in Creative Minds, a six-part TV portrait documentary series by Robin Hughes.
Companies setting ballets to her scores include Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet Theatre Munich, San Francisco Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet. In 2015 Elena Kats-Chernin’s children’s opera Schneewittchen und die 77 Zwerge (Snow White and the 77 Dwarves) was premiered at the Komische Oper Berlin and her widely-praised episodic opera The Divorce was watched by more than one million viewers on ABC TV. This pioneering work, with libretto by Joanna Murray-Smith, was commissioned by Opera Australia and featured such artists as Kate Miller-Heidke, Lisa McCune, Marina Prior and Meow Meow.
2018 saw commissioned works toured nationally by the Australian Chamber Orchestra; for Musica Viva for internationally acclaimed mandolin player, Avi Avital’s 2018 Australian tour; an autumn tour of her Picasso-inspired Three Dancers by Introdans with over 30 performances in the Netherlands and Germany and Kats-Chernin’s third piano concerto, Lebewohl, written for renowned pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska as soloist with both the Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras and recorded by ABC Classic FM. In 2019, a new production in Hannover of her opera Iphis is premiered (April), with the UK premiere of her harpsichord concerto Ancient Letters with Mahan Esfahani in Liverpool the same month. This year also heralds the world premiere of Kats-Chernin’s mainstage opera, Whiteley, on the life of renowned artist Brett Whiteley, with libretto by Justin Fleming for Opera Australia, and performances for Sydney Festival, Queensland Music Festival and Four Winds Festival (NSW).
Other highlights this season include an extensive autumn tour of her Picasso-inspired Three Dancers by Introdans with over 30 performances in the Netherlands and Germany, a new production in Hannover of her opera Iphis in April 2019, and the UK premiere of her harpsichord concerto Ancient Letters with Mahan Esfahani in Liverpool on 4 April. 2019 will also see the premiere of the composer’s mainstage opera on the life of renowned artist Brett Whiteley, with libretto by Justin Fleming for Opera Australia, and performances for Sydney Festival and Four Winds Festival.
In 2017 Kats-Chernin’s work for the Australian World Orchestra, The Witching Hour, was nominated for an APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award for ‘Orchestral Work of the Year’ and her album of piano music, Unsent Love Letters: meditations on Erik Satie performed by Tamara-Anna Cislowska, was nominated for an ARIA Award for ‘Best Classical Album’. Kats-Chernin was invited Composer-in-Residence with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who performed existing and two newly-commissioned works: harpsichord concerto Ancient Letters (premiered by Mahan Esfahani) and symphonic work Big Rhap, both broadcast on ABC Classic FM. She was also featured artist for the Queensland Music Festival, composing music to the artwork of Margaret Olley and William Robinson, and performing with Orava Quartet and Katie Noonan.
For the centenary of Gallipoli, Elena Kats-Chernin’s five-movement work Meeting the Sun was commissioned by the Kokoda Memorial Track Walkway and performed by the Royal Australian Navy Band and the Sydney Children’s Choir at the Anzac Day Dawn Service. Her movement Landing was featured in the Gallipoli Symphony, which premiered in Istanbul, Turkey in August 2015, with further premieres of works for the centenary of World War I in 2018.
Her groundbreaking concerto for eight double basses and orchestra The Witching Hour was premiered in 2016 by the Australian World Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House and in Singapore, and nominated for a 2017 APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award; and another orchestral work, Singing Trees was premiered by the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Kats-Chernin’s music is widely recorded, featuring in Deutsche Grammophon’s historic Bach333 box set and in Lang Lang’s new double disc album, Piano Book (Deutsche Grammophon), released in April 2019; the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary CD Brandenburg Celebrates, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 40th Anniversary collection. ABC Classics has released two albums of Elena’s music for piano, Butterflying (2016) and Unsent Love Letters: meditations on Erik Satie (2017) both featuring pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska and spending weeks at no.1 on the classical charts, with the latter now released in the rest of the world on Deutsche Grammophon. In November 2017 ABC Classics also released a limited edition Elena Kats-Chernin Collection 10-disc box set, launched at a special birthday concert presented by City Recital Hall, Sydney.
Elena Kats-Chernin’s music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock.
- “Kats-Chernin's characteristic imaginative space might be likened to an old dance, heard in a surreal dream, interrupted by outbursts of outrageousness.”Sydney Morning Herald
- "Magical. The composer succeeds in creating an enchanting mixture of classical, musical and pop, animated cartoon music and hit numbers"Berliner Morgenpost
- "vibrant and seductive"The Guardian
- "a true dream team...a dazzling collection... lushly recorded and extremely accessible... Fasten your seatbelts and hold on."Limelight