Maria Grenfell


Maria Grenfell (b. 1969) was born in Malaysia, and completed composition studies in Christchurch, New Zealand. She obtained a Masters degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and a Doctorate from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she was also a lecturer. Her teachers have included Stephen Hartke, Erica Muhl, James Hopkins and Morten Lauridsen in Los Angeles, and Joseph Schwantner and Samuel Adler in New York. Maria Grenfell’s work takes much of its influence from poetic, literary and visual sources and from non-Western music and literature. Her music has been performed by musicians such as members of eighth blackbird (Music X Festival, 2010), the Australia Ensemble, The Seymour Group, the Vienna Piano Trio, the New Zealand Trio, and numerous other chamber ensembles. She has been commissioned, performed or recorded by all the major symphony orchestras in Australia and New Zealand. In 2012 she won a state award for Best Instrumental Work for “Ten Suns Ablaze” at the Australian Art Music Awards. Her music is broadcast regularly in Australia and New Zealand, and is released on Kiwi-Pacific and Trust CDs. Her works are available from the Australian Music Centre, SouNZ New Zealand Music Centre and Reed Music.

Maria serves on the Board of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and assists at the Symphony Australia TSO Composers’ School, an annual emerging composer program. Maria has taught at the University of Southern California, given guest lectures at the University of Houston, the University of Melbourne, and from January to May 2013 she was Visiting Professor of Composition at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. She was a violinist with the Christchurch Symphony and the New Zealand Youth Orchestra, and performed bowed piano with the University of Southern California Percussion Ensemble. Maria lives in Hobart with her husband, guitarist David Malone, and their two children, and is Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Classical Music and Composition at the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music.

Composer website:


These Dark Notes Drifting, for 2 flutes, percussion and piano.

These dark notes drifting (2010) takes its title from a poem by 9th-century Chinese poet Li Po. Inspired by a Chinese folk tune, the piece evokes distant flutes, coloured by the sounds that one might hear across a valley at night in the spring.

“Spring Night in Lo-Yang hearing a flute In what house, the jade flute that sends these dark notes drifting, scattering on the spring wind that fills Lo-Yang? Tonight if we should hear the willow-breaking song, who could help but long for the gardens of home?”

Written for Music X, Blonay, Switzerland, June-July 2010.

Featured in the playlist: Small Ensemble Waves (1/3/2016)

Di Primavera I, for guitar and marimba.

Di Primavera I for guitar and marimba was inspired by a trip to Italy, an astonishing place that overflows with artistry in every aspect of its culture.  Di Primavera (“of Spring”) is reminiscent of warm spring breezes inviting a late afternoon thunderstorm in the Tuscan hills, the lusciousness of Botticelli’s painting “Primavera,” and echoes of a melodic idea derived from Monteverdi’s fourth book of madrigals.
Di Primavera is featured on David Malone’s recording of Tasmanian guitar music, Fretsongs.

Featured in the playlist Percussive Waves (April 2017)

Roar!, for Orchestra.

This work was commissioned as an education piece, and is designed to showcase the sections of the orchestra at the circus or at the zoo: Brass (opening): fanfare, welcome to the circus/zoo; Woodwinds: the monkeys; Strings: the trapeze/the swans; Percussion: lions and tigers; Tutti, and brass fanfare to end.

The conductor may pause at each new section to introduce the instruments of the orchestra, or may have the opening few bars of each section of music played before performing the piece without pause.

Featured in Orchestral Waves (November 2018)


Maria Grenfell was interviewed for the Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast, Episode 10, 18/08/16.