Composer Elena Kats-Chernin has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in this year’s Australia Day Honours. It was bestowed on her for “distinguished service to the performing arts, particularly to music, as an orchestral, operatic and chamber music composer.” One of the country’s most distinguished composers and cherished musical figures, Kats-Chernin’s varied and prolific output sees her regularly programmed, recorded and commissioned both in Australia and abroad.

Elena Kats-Chernin. Photo © Bruria Hammer

Born in 1957 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Kats-Chernin wrote her first composition at the age of six. She trained at the prestigious and famously demanding Gnessin Musical College before migrating to Australia in 1975.

“It wasn’t easy, but I loved it,” Kats-Chernin told Limelightin 2017. “I think they chose 16 out of 600 for my course. Every single person in my course had perfect pitch. The emphasis was on music theory…You learned to study hard because to be in that school was a privilege. Having fun meant you would take a chorale and start singing four-part harmony. That was our fun time.”

In Australia, Kats-Chernin continued her musical education at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music,...