Selected Press Quotes and Commentary

"Indeed, there is an air of positivity throughout the entire evening, despite the subject matter, and this is perhaps Westlake’s towering achievement: the ability to heal and find solace in music. The standing ovation that greeted it only testifies to its emotional impact." (Jansson J. Antmann. Limelight Magazine)


2023 Australian Youth Orchestra Ngapa William Cooper, The Glass Soldier, Beneath the Waves / Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

"This was one of the best concerts I have seen in Canberra, and from youths that would give any major Australian orchestra a run for their money." The standing ovation said it all. (ROB KENNEDY Canberra City News.)

2023 Australian Youth Orchestra – Ngapa William Cooper / The Glass Soldier / Beneath the Waves / Llewellyn Hall, Canberra

“This is a powerful and important work, musically quite challenging, but packing an unmistakable emotional punch. There were many tears in the sold-out crowd.” (DAVID WASHINGTON, INREVIEW)

2023 Adelaide Festival – Ngapa William Cooper / Adelaide Town Hall

“...Ngapa [is] an experience that grips one’s whole being: it wrests one’s attention and never lets go.” ★★★★★ (GRAHAM STRAHLE, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW)

2023 Adelaide Festival – Ngapa William Cooper / Adelaide Town Hall

"Taking place across seven movements, and serving as Lior’s first performance since the start of 2020, the setting sun helped begin the almost cinematic showcase, with intricate compositions and lush orchestration carrying the crowd into a mesmerising state of wide-eyed wonder. While movements of blinding intensity contrasted with moments of pure soulfulness and reflection, it felt like no time at all had passed for the main performance was over, with many wondering where these last 40 minutes had gone." (by Tyler Jenke -  ROLLING STONE)

WOMADelaide 2021 / COMPASSION / Adelaide Symphony Orchestra / Lior

"For this year’s concerts the orchestra was conducted by its founder, Alexander Briger, in a program featuring works by Westlake, Janáček and Sibelius. Westlake’s Flying Dream (drawing on material from his score for the film, Paper Planes) was an appropriately upbeat curtain-raiser. Responding enthusiastically to the music’s various textures, the players delivered a polished account, giving plenty of impetus to the generic film-score rhythms and shaping its lyrical elements with elegance."  Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. (by Tony Way - Limelight Magazine)

Australian World Orchestra / 2019 season

"In a welcome rehearing of Nigel Westlake’s well-structured Oboe Concerto Spirit of the Wild, SSO principal oboist Diana Doherty gave an utterly compelling performance from memory of the solo part. From first note to last, playing from memory, she held the line of musical concentration through subtle nuance, deft virtuosic agility and that indefinable element of unmediated engagement with musical thought that always draws listeners in. Much of the wildness is in the ever-changing rhythmic energy, the exotic bird-like utterances that Doherty captured so imaginatively and the depth of sentiment in the haunting song that makes up the slow middle section." Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (By Peter McCallum - Sydney Morning Herald)

Sydney Symphony Season Opening Gala 2019

Compassion: Chamber Landscapes shows intimacy in a painful world

"Sometimes only artists can make sense of a pained and conflicted world. A case in point is Nigel Westlake and Lior in the powerful orchestral song cycle Compassion they composed in 2013: it seems to describe how humanity is divided by religion and has lost “wisdom of the heart” — to quote from one of its lyrics.

In an inspired move, Iain Grandage commissioned them to write a chamber version of this cycle for the Adelaide Festival in his capacity as curator of the latter’s Chamber Landscapes concert series. This new version of Compassion — for string quartet, piano, percussion and double bass — turned out to be wonderfully successful. While it obviously lacked the huge multicoloured canvas of Westlake’s original scoring, it created a compact new propulsive energy and a more intimate relationship between instruments and voice.

It had the instrumentalists working hard, especially percussionist Claire Edwardes: she darted back and forth over marimba, wood blocks, bass drum and much else with terrific swiftness and dexterity. The textures Tinalley String Quartet, pianist Daniel de Borah and double bassist Andrew Meisel were able to create were mesmerising, from the slowly swirling nebula of sound in the opening Sim Shalom (Grant Peace)to the ecstatic planes of Ma Wadani Ahadun (Until the End of Time).

The vocal part itself was unchanged and, surprisingly, Lior chose to be miked for this small-scale performance. However, the reduced forces allowed him to entwine his gloriously expressive voice even more intimately around and between the instruments."

Compassion / Adelaide Festival (2018)

“Nigel Westlake wrote his new oboe concerto, Spirit of the Wild, after a trip with politician/environmentalist Bob Brown to Bathurst Harbour in the southwest Tasmanian wilderness. The solo oboe becomes the embodiment of that spirit and Sydney Symphony oboist Diana Doherty played it like an incarnation of an exotic woodland bird, a mercurial animal of alert and sometimes savage energy, and force of creation all in one. The work spanned long notes, haunting remoteness and awakening wonder in the first movement, driving rhythmic vitality in the second, soulfulness and cinematic expansiveness in the third and the best of Westlake’s invigorated rhythmic inventiveness in the fourth. Doherty’s performance was a tour de force, interspersing cadenzas that wailed and shrieked like a trapped creature with dynamic virtuosity that flitted between chords as though her life depended on it.” By Peter McCallum / Sydney Morning Herald

Spirit of the Wild / Diana Doherty / SSO / Robertson (2017)

Westlake’s original material, which accounts for the majority of the score, is skillfully restrained, though there are moments when it, too, tugs at the ears, as in the between violin and bassoon that plays when Fly’s pups are sold off to the neighbors, or the of “Jingle Bells” that accompanies the arrival of the Hoggetts’ bratty, citified grandchildren. If you consider the world from an animal’s perspective, as “Babe” asks you to do, and if Christmas for animals means carnage, why shouldn’t a carol sound totally crackers?” By Anthony Lydgate / The New Yorker Dec. 2016

Babe in Concert – NY Philharmonic (2016)

This is a distinguished and masterly work, deeply felt and with great impact. It lives up to expectations in creating a compelling sense of occasion. Big gestures written for large orchestra and choir contrast with intimate gestures, such as the poignant, delicate writing for the treble soloist. This work drew impressively on the composer's musicianship and wide experience, demonstrating consistent abilities to handle large and diverse forces and consistent abilities to evoke a particular mood or response. One cannot help but be affected by this passionate music. "Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli" winner of the 2013 Paul Lowin Orchestral prize

Judges comments, Paul Lowin Orchestral prize

In the end, however, while the music is sophisticated and original, and the words are full of wisdom, this work is all heart. The musicians of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, under Nigel Westlake's direction, gave a warm and honest performance with several standout solos, including from concertmaster Sun Yi.
"Compassion" performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Lior conducted by Nigel Westlake. By Harriet Cunningham / Sydney Morning Herald

Compassion / SSO / Westlake / Lior (2013)

The work proved an overall triumphant and exciting achievement by songwriter and composer – a collaboration that will hopefully occur again soon.By Hallam Fulcher / Limelight Magazine

Compassion / SSO / Westlake / Lior (2013)

Sometimes there is a night in the theatre that you will never, ever forget. Watching Nigel Westlake conduct the NSW premier of his impressive new work, Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli for the Sydney Symphony with the Cantillation chorus was one of them. Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra & Cantillation, conducted by Nigel Westlake. By Rebecca Whitton / Australian Stage Review

Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli / SSO / Westlake (October 2011)

Heart-felt Requiem Burns Brightly.
The young audiences of Meet the Music concerts are usually generous with their praise, but the five standing ovations that greeted Nigel Westlake's Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli (six if you count the premature applause during the final movement) indicated a special enthusiasm for the work's blazing sounds and empathy for its composer. Although completed in tragic circumstances - the death of his son - the work is a bold hymn to life, the sun and the stars (indeed much of the music was originally conceived for the IMAX film Solarmax). Written in eight movements with texts including the Tibetan book of Living and Dying, a hymn of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, words by Galileo and Shakespeare and a recurring madrigal by Giovan Leonardo Primavera, ''O sun, immortal life giver'', Westlake's musical language is direct, with clear shape and strong gesture. Westlake had a natural ease - as composer and conductor - with the large scale of his material, moving fluently between cinematic elements, minimalist patterns, drum interludes, sharp irregular rhythms and simple songs in a way that sustained interest over the work's 40 minutes. Cantillation provided a splendidly polished choral sound, particularly in the closing chorus which returned to the madrigal text and texture heard earlier but with emphatically fateful punctuation from percussion. The work's expressive heart, however, lies in the two strophic songs for boy sopranos, eloquently pitched and enunciated by Liam Crisanti and Neil Baker. The first is a carefully shaped angular melody, the second expressive of serene joy at Galileo's wonder at seeing the moons of Jupiter.
Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Cantillation, Liam Crisanti & Neil Baker (boy soprano soloists), conducted by Nigel Westlake. By Peter McCallum / SMH

Missa Solis Requiem for Eli / SSO / Westlake (October 2011)

Nigel Westlake’s Piano Trio was the jewel in the concert. The architecture of the work is breathtaking. Listening is like walking through a kind of spectral building wherein, simultaneously, one apprehends the finished beauty while seeing the structure beneath. Piano Trio performed by Trioz.
The Canberra Times

Piano Trio / Trioz (August 2011)

......from the haunting last chord of the first movement to the elegiac central movement through to the robust cross-rhythms of the finale. This is masterful chamber music: it spans all three voices beautifully, passing a gesture from piano to violin to cello seamlessly, and weaving three-, four- and five-beat time signatures together in a satisfyingly complex yet foot-stomping mess of rhythm. Piano Trio performed by Trioz.
Sydney Morning Herald

Piano Trio / Trioz (August 2011)

The second quartet by Nigel Westlake was a brilliant succession of character pieces, with scherzos of dizzying rhythmic subtlety offset by a slow movement......... City of London Festival.
The London Telegraph

String Quartet No. II / Goldner String Quartet (July 2011)

A master orchestrator at work, exercising his craft across a striking sequence of eight movements. This score engages more for its life-affirmation than for any personal elegaic intentions: a moving experience, without doubt, often generating a near visceral excitement. Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Chorus with treble soloist Jordan Janssen, conducted by Benjamin Northey.
By Clive O"Conell / The Age

Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli / MSO / Northey (Jan 2011)

One of the masterpieces of the contemporary concerto repertoire, the Antarctica Suite.
Sounds Australian Journal.

Antarctica – Suite for guitar and orchestra / Timothy Kain / TSO

This is a marvellous new Australian composition. Nigel Westlake's suite is a mature and profoundly evocative work that is also very accessible.
The Glass Soldier performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra / conducted by Jean-Louis Forestier.
By Barney Zwartz /The Age

The Glass Soldier / MSO / Forestier (August 2007.)

The Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s Trio in Three Movements (2003) was also overtly accessible, with sweetly melodic string writing and pianistic sparkle amplifying graceful melodic ideas in the outer movements, and a Messiaen-like meditation between them.
By Anthony Tommasini / The New York Times.

Piano Trio / The Julliard School Ensemble (2013)

Westlake is proving that he can escape the realms of repetition and tradition whilst scoring a huge box-office family-film, and yet impose the right amount of restraint on this art in effort to perfectly settle into the minds of the viewer. This also proves that the Noonan-Westlake collaborations are the perfect artistic chemistry, much like the Spielberg-Williams entries in cinema.
By Robert Purvis / mfiles UK

Miss Potter (directed by Chris Noonan with Renee Zellweger & Ewan Mcgregor)

Harvey's latest collection, Rabid Bay, has got at least one instantly recognisable masterpiece on it: Nigel Westiake's Piano Sonata No. 1. This dissonant powerhouse of a work made its debut in 1998 to widespread acclaim and, judging by its performance here, it's going to be around for as long as there are pianists with enough passion and technique to play it. Beginning with fear-some cascades of sound (for a moment, it seems like there's an orchestra somewhere behind it all), it's in traditional fast-slow- fast form, but the outer movements are like a virtuosic groove - the kind of rock-and-funk-inspired rhythms at which Harvey excels. The opening to the third movement, in particular, has the roar of a jet engine about it and there's the feeling of irrepressible inspiration, as composer and pianist inhabit the same thrilling, creative space.
Limelight Magazine

Piano Sonata No. I / Michael Kieran Harvey (2007)

Nigel Westlake's music is driven by nervous rhythmic energy, ducking & weaving any obvious constraint of metre like an artful youth who wont stand still. When applied to the string quartet, this creates a bracing, driven texture, leaping fearlessly from one dextrous feat to another. When accomplished as bravely as by the four players of the Goldner String Quartet, the results - in places such as the swooping closing passages of the finale - can be thrilling.
The Sydney Morning Herald

String Quartet No. II / Goldner String Quartet (2005)

The Westlake is an inspired, poetic work, based on his award winning "Urban Myths" but enlarged into three movements : its melodies are attractively sinewy & the textures gorgeously translucent. The Macquarie's expressive range was tremendously wide & the quality of their sound surpassingly fine.
The Adelaide Review

Piano Trio / The Macquarie Trio (2000)

But perhaps the most memorable work was Nigel Westlake's Six Fish suite, performed under a shimmering blue light that echoed the sea-like imagery within the music. Gleaming arpeggios - executed in perfect tandem by Schaupp and Grigoryan - became musical metaphors for the movement of fish through the ocean, drifting in the current before changing direction with the flick of a tail. Spangled Emperor was buoyed by gentle bubbles that emerged from Field's guitar, while Koch's dobro became a plaintive whale call in Leafy Sea Dragon. And the Flying Fish in the final piece leapt from the water with swaggering bravado, slithering across the waves as the music built to a crescendo of white-capped riffs.
The Age

Six Fish / Saffire guitar quartet (2004)

His music captures every aspect of film music from adventure to romance, from the Silents to Technicolor, from blockbuster to documentary. In the thirty-six tracks there is taster of every mood and genre as the film transcribes the Twentieth century, but surprisingly the music flows like a well-oiled projector throughout the score, while drawing on some wonderful variations of the main theme and many auxiliary taster themes during the journey. There are also many tender and romantic moments, which are beautifully orchestrated and weave seamlessly in-between the action cues. The music is always full of activity and highly entertaining, almost as if each cue is heralding its own new screen surprise. For a score that covers something as diverse as one hundred years of cinematic history, Nigel Westlake has achieved wonders producing appropriate and enthralling music that has such a “belonging” feeling while still addressing each emotion and circumstance so effectively. The score for Celluloid Heroes is primarily action and comedy driven, but really has something for everyone.
Music for the movies

Celluloid Heroes / MSO / Soundtrack album (2004)

Westlake has been busy, & highly successful, writing the film scores for the Babe films and there was every reason to fear he might be lost to the low-return business of cutting edge music. Quite the opposite seems to be the case, for his Piano Sonata is an emphatic rejection of the middle-of-the-road populism of movie music. It begins with tumultuous dissonances and steadily works its way towards the kind of rhythmic propulsion for which Westlake's music is renowned; but it never gets too comfortable. Even in the slow movement, which is a beautiful exploration of sonorities, the questing nature of the composer's intelligence is clear - and highly exciting.
Sydney Morning Herald

Piano Sonata No. I / Michael Kieran Harvey (1998)

The writing is accomplished and fluid and, most importantly Westlake allows a piece to unfold with a natural rise and fall in energy, gradually finding its true head & then allowing it to recede.
Sydney Morning Herald

Piano Trio / The Macquarie Trio (2003)

If any composer can create characteristically Australian music, Nigel Westlake can. His new piano trio, played by the Macquarie trio in their final 2003 concert in Brisbane, expressed so much of what is was & what it is to be Australian. This three movement work evolved out of his single "Urban Myths" played by the trio two years ago. It is a totally free spirit that borrowed from everywhere yet transcended it all, honoring the three movement trio structure without being dominated by its conventions. It quoted jazz, it keened in the middle movement, but through it all you could feel the desolation of deserts, Australian sun burning the earth, the same earth springing to life after rain. You could glimpse shafts of light penetrating tropical forests, hear Clancy & horses hoofs thundering around alpine ridges, & catch an urban commotion in its urgent drive. Westlake is not afraid of good old-fashioned melody, although in his hands it becomes vibrant, eloquent lyricism mingling with a biting energy into which sneak other elements - shades of jazz as Michael Goldschlager plucked his cello like a double bass, Kathryn Selby pounded reiterations on piano & Nicholas Milton's violin melodies orbited around it all. It was a stunning work & a stunning performance, the fresh exuberance of Australians (Goldschlager from New York now firmly Aussie) doing it their way, taking huge risks & setting a relaxed mood with with chatty introductions.
The Courier Mail

Piano Trio / The Macquarie Trio (2003)

Solarmax is Westlake's most impressive score to date. Ethnic, inspirational & grandiose, this is a sound track fit for a sun. I wait with anticipation to see what Westlake has in line for the heavens.
***** (five star rating) / Filmscore Monthly

Solarmax / Soundtrack album

I may very well have discovered the score of the year. Solarmax is big, powerful, melodic & as thrilling a score as I've heard in years.
Soundtrack Magazine

Solarmax / Soundtrack album

The outstanding CD release for 1994 was, for a change, a local one. Onomatopoeia , a collection of the music of young Australian composer Nigel Westlake on the Tall Poppies label was like a breath of fresh air with its bright colours, lively rhythms & brilliant ideas.
The Australian

Onomatopoeia / Chamber Music Vol. I (1994)

at the cutting edge of post-minimalism.
Sydney Morning Herald

Omphalo Centric Lecture / Synergy Percussion

Westlake's starkly tempestuous musical score swells & ebbs with the harsh grandeur of its subject matter - big effects movie producers take note!
The Hollywood Reporter

Antarctica / Soundtrack album

This is music that exposes the nonsense of pigeon-holing into categories... it is simply good and, above all, intelligent music.
The Australian

Refractions at Summer Cloud Bay / Australia Ensemble

Anyone who has seen the original film will, I am sure, have been deeply effected not only by the breathtaking scenes enshrined therein but by the high quality of Westlake's inspiration which plays such a vital role in its unforgettable impact.
British CD review

Antarctica / Soundtrack Album review

Program music of a high order; so much force, so much descriptive delicacy.
Sydney Morning Herald

Refractions at Summer Cloud Bay / Australia ensemble

Its shifting textures & his control of instrumental colour reveal him to be a composer of real talent.
English Gramophone

Omphalo Centric Lecture / Michael Askill – percussion

The effect was unique & fascinating - it worked beautifully.
The Australian

Onomatopoeia / N. Westlake – bass clarinet

Literally Stunning.
Sydney Morning Herald

Moving Air / Synergy Percussion

Omphalo Centric Lecture- likely to rank as one of the outstanding & representative Australian compositions of recent years.
Sydney Morning Herald

Omphalo Centric Lecture / Michael Askill – percussion

Brilliantly concieved & delivered - the effect was mesmerising.
The Australian

Onomatopoeia / N. Westlake – bass clarinet