W J Cavendish, Five Quadrilles and Two Waltzes

For piano  Sydney, 1833
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA041
ISBN 978-0-9925674-0-8 / ISMN 979-0-9009656-0-8

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William Joseph Cavendish was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in May 1789 and baptised on 27 May of the same year. Cavendish was born with the German surname of Castell although his father was Peter Castelli. William had a career in London as a violinist, violist, double bass player, organist and pianist. In common with many contemporary musicians Castell was forced to flee to France in 1826 because of unpaid debts. He later migrated to Mauritius where he adopted the pseudo-aristocratic surname of Cavendish de Castell. 

MDA041 pic1The composer arrived in Sydney on the ship Sovereign on 20 January 1833. He may have been accompanied by his ‘sister’ Mary, with whom he lived. The name may be a pseudonym, for as Graeme Skinner in his excellent study of early Australian composers suggests, she was in fact his mistress. According to Skinner and to Ann Beedell, Cavendish was respected in the short time that he was in Sydney as a competent musician, and he was either the founder, or one of the founders of the Cecilian Society, a learned group of amateur musicians who performed music in the Catholic Church Hall near St Mary’s Cathedral. On 26 January 1839 bothMDA041 pic2 William and Mary Cavendish were drowned on Sydney Harbour during the annual regatta commemorating the Foundation of Sydney.

The first Australian born composer is Thomas Stubbs, who was born in Sydney in 1802 and died in 1879. However, Cavendish is the first composer resident in Australia whose music has survived. The Five Quadrilles and Two Waltzes survive in a letter written by the composer to presumably his father Mr Castell, 19 Stargate Street, Westminster Bridge, London, and dated Parramatta, Notasia, (meaning Australia), 20 July 1833 and sent via the ship “Edward Lombe”. The dances are entitled Australian, Notasian, Arabian, or Mal[a]gareske quadrilles. Two of the quadrilles have New South Wales titles: Woo-loo-moo-loo and Kurry Jong. Cavendish describes the music as The Fairy Quadrilles asdanced on a Sunbeam by the Elves of the Ocean in the Halls of Beauty at the Coral Palace of the Queen of the Sea. Composed by the Peri of the Purple Wing.