During the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) extensive years of commitment to developing orchestral life in Australia, the national broadcaster had a secondary role of facilitating the composition, performance and broadcast of works by Australian composers. The ABC's Federal Music Library preserved many of the musical scores and parts arising from the ABC's function as Australia's premier classical music performing organisation in the days when archiving Australia's musical history was not a significant consideration for any national institution. This resulted in a collection of Australian musical works, dating from 1912 through to the 1970s.
The National Library of Australia acquired this collection, known as the Symphony Australia Collection in 2000, from the Symphony Australia Library, formerly the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Federal Music Library (ABC Federal Music Library).
This large collection of music covering seven decades of Australian musical history, consists of scores and performance parts. The works in the collection cover many genres of music, including orchestral, chamber, choral, operatic, piano and vocal works by Australian composers and arrangers. These scores and parts, replete with composers' and performers' interpretive markings, scribbling, drawings and notes represent the performance materials used by the ABC's orchestras and ensembles. The majority of the works are original manuscripts, in the composers' and copyists' hand, with some published works and photocopies.
There are both many original works by Australian composers and a number of arrangements of mainstream repertoire by Australians for Australian performance contexts. Seventy eight composers and arrangers are in the collection that contains over 1000 items. Those most represented in the collection are:
John Antill, Edgar Bainton, James Brash, Alex Burnard, Robert Dalley-Scarlett, Clive Douglas, George Selwyn English, Felix Gethen, Camille Gheysens, Edith Harrhy, Alfred Hill, Mirrie Hill, Frank Hutchens, Miriam Hyde, William James, Henry Krips, Dorian Le Gallienne, William Lovelock, Leslie Mallin, David Sydney Morgan, Arnold Mote, William Arundel Orchard, Meta Overman, Katherine (Kitty) Parker, James Penberthy, Peter Roake, Larry Sitsky, Margaret Sutherland, Georg Tintner, Felix Werder, Malcolm Williamson.
The largest single component of the collection consists of works by Alfred Hill (over 500).
This large historically significant Symphony Australia collection now forms part of the nation's music collection and is therefore not available for loan. It can however be used on-site in the Library's Petherick reading room, or, items from the collection can be copied on a cost-recovery basis through the Library's Document Supply Service or Copies Direct when the request includes the relevant copyright permissions.