Nathan, The Meeting of the East and the West

Voice and pianoforte. Sydney, 1850. Text: Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell.
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA032
ISBN 978-0-9925673-1-6 / ISMN 979-0-9009655-1-6

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MDA032 Nathan Meeting of the East VS Original_0008   MDA032 pic1  

Isaac Nathan, musician, journalist and composer was born in Canterbury, England, the son of a Polish Jewish cantor. A pupil of Domenico Corri, who composed the ballad opera on the South Seas, Pitcairn Island, Nathan came to prominence with his publication in 1815 of the two volumes of Hebrew Melodies, set to the poetry of Lord Byron. Financial difficulties caused Nathan to leave England, and he arrived in Sydney in April 1841.

MDA032 pic2There through his self-promotion he became a well-known musical figure in early Sydney. Together with William Vincent Wallace he was the best known musical identity in the early life of the Colony of New South Wales. Nathan is supposed to have written the first opera composed in Australia, Don John of Austria, which was presented on 7 May 1847 at the Victoria Theatre, Sydney. Nathan composed in many genres, songs, sacred music and especially music written about the indigenous inhabitants of the Sydney region, some of the texts being set in the native language spoken around Port Jackson. He died in 1864 as the result of an accident on the newly introduced horse drawn tram in Sydney. Very few of his manuscripts survive, presumably because his widow burned them after his untimely death.

Sir TMDA031 pic2homas Livingstone Mitchell was one of Australia’s most dedicated explorers. Mitchell saw service in the Peninsula Wars and specialised in the drawing up of maps and gathering topographical intelligence for the campaign. An active and enquiring man, he was appointed Surveyor-General of New South Wales in 1828, succeeding the explorer John Oxley. He was a keen admirer of poetry and during the period, several of his poetic works were published in Sydney journals and newspapers. Fifty-five of his own poems survive, and he did a complete translation from the Portuguese of the epic poem Lusiads of Luís Vaz de Camões.