Sir Bernard Heinze AC 1894-1982

Sir Bernard Heinze

Sir Bernard Heinze

Bernard Thomas Heinze was born in the Victorian fruit-growing town of Shepparton on 1 July 1894.

On 10 December 1912 Heinze shared the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall with another young prodigy, soprano Gertrude Johnson (she was only a few months his senior).

In 1929 Heinze was appointed director-general of music for the newly formed National Broadcasting Service, 3LO and 3AR in Melbourne - the forerunner of the ABC.

 

Out of the musical wilderness

‘Not all players who worked with Bernard Heinze regarded him as a particularly talented conductor,’ recalled Charles Buttrose, a former ABC executive with special responsibility for music. ‘Some said they had difficulty in following his beat which was not always orthodox. But, whatever reservations musicians might have had about Heinze’s quality as a conductor, none has questioned his flair for playing to young audiences. His “Walk through the Orchestra”, during which he had the players demonstrate each instrument, fascinated his listeners and with the rest of the program enlivened by his simple but graphic and enlightening comment, he converted thousands of Australians into life-long music-lovers. Neville Amadio, for decades principal flute of the Sydney Symphony, says: ‘Australia had to have a Heinze, an innovator who would lead the country out of the musical wilderness.’

Bernard Thomas Heinze was born in the Victorian fruit-growing town of Shepparton on 1 July 1894. He grew up in Ballarat where he attended St. Patrick’s College. The choirmaster, Haydn West, recognised his musical talent and his parents, both accomplished amateur musicians, had him taught violin. In 1911 Heinze won a place at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium.

On 10 December 1912 Heinze shared the stage of the Melbourne Town Hall with another young prodigy, soprano Gertrude Johnson (she was only a few months his senior). The following year he won a scholarship that took him to the Royal College of Music in London. He was there when war broke out. After five years in the Royal Artillery he became a music critic for the Saturday Review and resumed his studies – in Paris with the violinist Nestor Lejeune and with Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum and, in Berlin, with the violinist Willy Hess. In 1922 he joined the Lejeune Quartet.

Heinze returned to Australia in 1923 and joined the staff of the University Conservatorium. His conducting career began the following year, when he formed the Melbourne University Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 10 years. With the USO he gave this country’s first concert specifically designed for young people. He was the Conservatorium’s Ormond Professor of Music from 1925 until 1956.

Heinze fostered an association with concert promoters J. & N. Tait, and through the 1920s his USO played for many of the Taits’ visiting artists, including Percy Grainger, Toti dal Monte and Feodor Chaliapine.

In 1929 Heinze was appointed director-general of music for the newly formed National Broadcasting Service, 3LO and 3AR in Melbourne – the forerunner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Soon he was challenging Fritz Hart for the leadership of Melbourne’s musical life. In 1931 he and Hart were two of the eight pallbearers at Dame Nellie Melba’s funeral. Somehow, a few months later, he persuaded J.C. Williamson’s to dust off the costumes and scenery from the 1928 Melba season and, despite the Depression, mount three operas – Carmen, Tosca and Faust – at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne. The principal soprano and baritone, Alice Orff-Solscher and Franco Izal, were Conservatorium teachers, and the tenor, the Scot Joseph Hislop, was a J. & N. Tait concert artist. The enterprise was well received, though there were some reservations, particularly as Hislop sang in French, Orff-Solscher in German, Izal in Italian and almost everybody else in English. Heinze conducted – though he far preferred the concert platform to the out-of-sight confines of a cramped orchestra pit.

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Biographical references

Stella M. Barber: Crescendo, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, 2007
Charles Buttrose: Playing for Australia, Macmillan, 1982
Marc Fiddian: ‘Sir Bernard, the Maestro’, in Parade, February 1974
J.L. Holmes: ‘Sir Bernard Thomas Heinze’, in The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, Oxford University Press, 1997
Thérèse Radic: Bernard Heinze, Macmillan, 1986
David Symons: The Music of Margaret Sutherland, Currency Press, 1997