|Please note: "Banker," "Oscussion" and "The Tempest" were all released on LP in the early 1970s. The master tapes of these pieces were all lost in the ensuing years. And the pressing of "Banker", unfortunately, was substandard. With considerable work the pieces were able to be recovered from their LP recordings. In the case of "Banker", a degree of surface noise, and pressing distortion remain. This is also true, but to a much, lesser extent, with "Oscussion" and "The Tempest".
Felix Werder was born in Berlin in 1922. Possessed of an omnivorous musical curiosity, over the course of his career, he has explored many of the issues of concern in contemporary music, from serialism and aleatoric techniques, through opera, improvisation, graphic notation and electronics, always through the lens of his intense expressionist aesthetic. His father was Boaz Bischofswerder, one of the leading cantors and Jewish liturgical composers in Berlin, and a member of Schoenberg¹s circle. At 8 years old, he started copying his father¹s scores, and considerable musical experience ensued. All this came to an end in 1934, when the family emigrated to England to escape the Nazis. For 6 years, they lived in England, and Felix began to study music, fine arts and architecture in a series of English institutions. At the outbreak of World War II, the family, along with almost all the other German-Jewish refugees in England, were declared enemy aliens, and offered a chance to emigrate to Canada, where they would work for the war effort. For some reason, the ship, the Dunera, headed for Australia instead, where Felix and his father, and 2000 other German-Jewish refugees were placed in internment camps, and held prisoner for the rest of the war. It was under these circumstances that he wrote his first Symphony, in 1943. On his release from the prison camp, he worked for a while as a jazz bassist in Sydney, before moving to Melbourne and beginning his musical career. In the 1950s, along with fellow composers Margaret Sutherland, Dorian Le Gallienne, and later, Keith Humble, they formed the core of Melbourne¹s small, but active new music scene. From 1955, Felix taught music and art history at the Melbourne Council of Adult Education, as well as privately teaching many generations of Australian composers, and he was music critic for The Age newspaper from 1960 until 1977. He became involved with radio in the mid 1970s, producing new music programs for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1970s, and community radio in the 1980s and early 1990s. For 20 years, his performance group, Australia Felix, gave concerts of new Australian music both in Australia and in Europe.
Werder was introduced to the use of electronics in the late 1960s by his friend Bruce Clarke, whose Jingle Workshop was the first commercial electronic music studio in Australia. He shortly thereafter acquired an EMS VCS3 analog synthesizer, and incorporated electronics into his performances. His group gave some of the earliest live electronic performances in Australia, two of which, "Banker" and "Oscussion", are recorded on this CD. In 1974, he worked with the EMS Synthi 100, a large digitally controlled analog synthesizer in the studio at the University of Melbourne, where he produced his electronic masterpiece, "The Tempest - After Giorgione¹s "Tempesta". By the late 1970s, however, he had largely stopped working with electronics, as he devoted himself more and more to composing chamber works for his ensemble (and others) to perform. In the early 90s, with my urging and assistance, he made one foray into the world of computer music, with the contrapuntal fantasy "V/Line." He has not returned to the medium since then. His electronic work, then, forms a small but unique part of his output. - From the liner notes by Warren Burt