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Happy 90th birthday to composer extraordinaire George Dreyfus

Story Published Sunday 22 July 2018
George Dreyfus wearing a suit standing at a lectern on stage
George Dreyfus accepting the Distinguished Services to Australian Music award at the 2013 Art Music Awards. Photo by Cynthia Sciberras

George Dreyfus is a screen composer best known for his scores for Rush and Adventures of Sebastian the Fox

He has also written major operas that premiered in Europe in the 1990’s

In 2013 George received the Distinguished Services to Australian Music Award from APRA AMCOS & AMC


On Sunday 22 July 2018, the inimitable, prolific composer extraordinaire, George Dreyfus AM, celebrated his 90th birthday.

Born into a Jewish family in Wuppertal, Germany George describes growing up in a family with "pots of money, cars, Kindermädchen [nannies] and holidays in Switzerland and Czechoslovakia". However, the family fled Germany in World War II, and settled in Melbourne.

Perhaps best known for his screen compositions, including the scores for Rush, The Adventures of Sebastian the Fox, Dimboola, and The Fringe Dwellers, George began composing orchestral and instrumental music in the 1950s, and played for many years in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He was enticed into composing for the screen by film director Tim Burstall (who needed a composer to whip up a score quickly, after his original composer took ill).

In the 1990s, two of George's major operas premiered in Germany: Rathenau, based on the life of Walter Rathenau, a German Jew who was assassinated while serving as Foreign Minister in the Weimar Republic (1993), and Die Marx Sisters, based on the private life of Karl Marx in Soho, London (1996). His children's opera The Takeover, based on the Aboriginal land rights issue, was given its European premiere in Germany in 1997.

In 2013, at the Art Music Awards, George received the prestigious Distinguished Services to Australian Music award.

Earlier this month, APRA AMCOS Chief Executive, Dean Ormston, caught up with George, to chat about composing life and turning 90.