Elena Kats-Chernin was born in 1957 in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent. In 1975, she and her family emigrated from the Soviet Union to Australia. She studied composition with Richard Toop, graduating in 1980, and then studied with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover, Germany, with the assistance of a DAAD Fellowship.
While in Europe Kats-Chernin became active in theatre and ballet, composing for state theatres in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Bochum, specifically working with renowned choreographer Reinhild Hoffmann. Her music attracted the attention of the Ensemble Modern and in 1993 she wrote her breakthrough work Clocks for them. Kats-Chernin remained in Germany for 13 years.
Since her return to Australia in 1994, Kats-Chernin has written three chamber operas (Iphis, Matricide and Undertow), two piano concertos, soundtracks for three silent films, and works for many performers and ensembles around the world. She has composed music for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, and the 2003 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony. Kats-Chernin has earned numerous awards included the Jean Bogan Memorial Prize for Charleston Noir (solo piano), Sounds Australian Award for Cadences, Deviations and Scarlatti (for 14 instruments), the Green Room Award and the Helpmann Award for her score to the ballet Wild Swans, based on the fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen and broadcast on ABC-TV in December 2003. In 2004 she was awarded a two-year Fellowship from the Australia Council to work with Meryl Tankard on a new dance/opera project based on the life and work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Six portrait CDs of Kats-Chernin's music have been released so far, on labels including ABC Classics, the German label Wergo, Signum (UK), and, most recently, Chamber of Horrors on Tall Poppies. Kats-Chernin's music is represented by Boosey & Hawkes.
Excerpts from the music of Elena Kats-Chernin:
Clocks (1993) – excerpt from Part IV
Get Well Rag (1998)