Margaret Brandman – a Musical Life.

By Benita Rainer.


Benita Rainer has known Margaret for over 20 years, since her young daughter was enrolled in piano lessons with Margaret, and with her insights into Margaret’s life she writes Margaret’s musical journey. Benita is working collaboratively with Margaret as lyricist for the Zodiac Song Cycle.


Margaret Brandman was born in 1951 into a musical family which had immigrated to Australia in 1939 from Berlin, Germany, in order to escape Nazi persecution. The successful jewelry business in Berlin (shown in the photo) was confiscated by the Nazi regime. The family had to pick up the pieces and begin life once again in their adopted country – Australia.


Playing an instrument, or singing, was highly valued and enjoyed by everyone in Margaret’s family. Her paternal grandfather, Fritz Brandmann, was a tenor with a world-class voice, who also played the ‘cello. Her father and all her aunts and uncles played various instruments, including violin, ‘cello, piano, instruments and voice. Once they arrived in Sydney in early 1939, Margaret’s Aunt Johanna became a sought after accompanist and vocal coach for opera singers. When they became naturalized Australian citizens in 1944 her family also changed their surname to Brandman.


Music brought both sides of the family together. As a young girl in Berlin, Margaret’s mother Else Scheffler was friends with the siblings in the Brandman(n) family before the war, and shared in the weekly ‘Musik-Abend’ (music evening). Else had thorough musical training at her high school, and studied piano and accordion in Berlin. After the war, she came to Australia, and married Margaret’s father Frederick Brandman. Else and Frederick then established a music teaching school which blossomed into a thriving business over a period of 25 years.


Margaret Brandman began studying music with her mother at the age of 4 and began performing at the age of 6 at the studio concerts, literally at her mother's knee! Her younger brother also learned to play many instruments and performed in the many concerts.


Margaret’s formal music studies from her teenage years on were undertaken at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she also attended the specialist music high school. On graduating, she achieved third in the state of NSW for music, with her performance and composition skills, and consequently received a scholarship to study at the University of Sydney where she majored in composition under the tutelage of the doyen of Australian composition - Peter Sculthorpe.


For over 45 years, Margaret has pursued her career in music as performer, composer, musical educator, published author and professional arranger. Of these facets, her over-riding passion is composing.


She has won world-wide acclaim for her compositions and inspirational musical tuition system. Her works have received radio airplay internationally and have been performed at festivals and concerts in Australia, UK, USA, Italy, Switzerland and Germany and more recently in Cuba.


2015 was both a year of international recording in the Czech Republic and in Cuba, and a creative song writing year for Margaret, who composed a song cycle based on the Zodiac Theme, (to my lyrics,) and also, several songs with Australian landscape themes written for Baritone, Martin Cooke. Cooke has been a permanent member of the Bavarian State Opera for over 25 years. I look forward to more of her creative output and performances in the coming years.


Benita Rainer B. Education


“I've followed Margaret's career as composer and music educator for many years, since I first met her as a mother taking my daughter to begin piano lessons. My daughter was in the first year of high school, and her father and I thought that Margaret's system of tuition would be the best for her. I had learnt the piano as a child, but never achieved facility in sight reading or effortless playing. Margaret's system addresses those errors from day one. My daughter succeeded in becoming a high school music teacher and performer, and we give Margaret Brandman much of the credit for her achievement! My daughter is presently teaching in a private college in London.”


- Benita Rainer



Australian Themes – Bush, Birds, Fire and Wind

In three of the compositions included on this CD: Firestorm Symphony, The Eastern Spinebill and the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos Herald a Blue Mountains’ Bushfire and Binna Burra Dreaming, the musical textures are saturated with her deep love and intimate knowledge of the creatures, sounds, nuances, seasons and the ways of the Australian bush.


Margaret and her family have lived in an Australian bushland setting and survived a ferocious bushfire.

Just imagine the overwhelming experience of having to save your home from fires crowning 60 to 80 feet in gum trees surrounding your home!


Australian Themes – Waves and Water

Margaret's awareness of the restless watery landscape of the Australian coast is very apparent in her work for String Orchestra, Undulations and is also born of personal experience. Her early years were spent in the Sydney beach suburb of Maroubra (the aboriginal word for Windy Place), and to this day she swims almost year round, weather permitting, in the clear waters of Cronulla Beach, her home suburb in Sydney. This piece superbly captures the ebb and flow of the tides, the vast movement of the deep ocean and the dolphins swimming by.


Pure Bliss

Margaret’s excellent writing for string orchestra is demonstrated in Love Brings Change (Adagio for Strings). Listening to this work as performed by the MPO will lift your heart and spirit. Her effective piano writing in Lyric Fantasy (piano and string orchestra), creates sparkling effects as found in a cascading waterfall.


As you immerse yourself in the sounds of this collection you will become aware of Margaret's great variety of compositional styles, underpinned by strong melodic aspirations and thorough enjoyment of the visceral power of rhythmic syncopation.


While listening to Jucaro Rhumba D'Amor (violin and piano) and sections of Spirit Visions scored for two pianos, you will find it impossible not to tap your feet to her dance rhythms, at the same time wondering at the richness of color and sheer variety and her music’s enthralling ability to lift your spirits. Her piano solo, Autumn Rhapsody is equally powerful in its ability to engage the senses.


Just allow yourself to be healed as these uplifting melodies and rhythmic figures massage their way through to your heart and soul!


- Benita Rainer





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