Meta Overman, Hovea Music Press composer
Meta Overman was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in September 1907. As a teenager she was already recognised as a gifted pianist and composer. By the age of nineteen, under the guidance of the eminent Dutch musician, Eduard Flipse, she had produced four children's operas, three children's cantatas and had written a number of children's songs for both choir and solo voice.
In 1937 she began studies with the Director of the Rotterdam Conservatorium, the distinguished composer Willem Pijper, successfully completing a number of works including Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1942).
At the conclusion of World War II, Meta Overman and fellow pianist, Frank Russcher, toured the Netherlands extensively and very successfully as duo pianists. However, composition continued to be a dominant part of her life, with the performances of four commissioned works---three ballets and a full orchestral work---all receiving outstanding reviews from the Rotterdam press.
Despite these successes, life was difficult in post-war Europe and in 1951 Meta Overman and her family left for Australia. Although her first years in Western Australia (1951-1957) were difficult, Meta Overman produced some of her most promising work. Three cantatas written for the organ and mixed choir of the Scots Church in Albany WA---where she lived from 1953 to 1955---proved to be of great significance. The Image of the Cross (1953), with words by John Joseph Jones, was performed for the first time by the Oriana Madrigal Choir in Melbourne in 1958, generating reflective praise from composer and critic Dorian Le Gallienne. Other works written and performed at this time included Sonata II for piano (1953), a set of songs, Nursery Rhymes (1954) and the one-act opera, The Musician (1954). The outstanding achievement of this period was the composer's three-act opera Psyche, written to be performed in The Sunken Garden of the University of Western Australia. Its ten performances in March 1955 in the third Festival of Perth heralded Meta Overman as an imaginative composer of some distinction.
Following her move from Albany to Perth in 1955, the ballet The True Princess (1955) was commissioned and performed by Kira Bousloff and the WA Ballet School. Other works composed in Perth included Three Dances for Piano (1955), Sonata for flute and piano (1956), Island Songs with words by John Joseph Jones (1956), Pegasus Dance for two pianos (1956) and Sonata for viola and piano (1956). The last of these works has proved particularly appealing, receiving many performances.
From 1957 until 1969 Meta Overman lived in Melbourne, Victoria, where she was closely associated with the wider Australian musical scene. Through friendships with such prominent Australian composers as Margaret Sutherland, Dorian Le Gallienne, Robert Hughes and later Keith Humble---and a number of leading performers including Pamela Page and Max Olding---the music of Meta Overman became known and admired. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra under conductor Nicoli Malko, and the Melbourne Symphony orchestra under Clive Douglas, performed Meta Overman's Suite of Old Dance Forms (1959) which won first prize in a competition run by the Guild of Australian Composers (Victorian Branch). It was through ABC TV and radio, however, that Meta Overman's music reached its greatest audience, with representation in programmes such as Australian Music Series (1963), Divertimento (1964) and Australian Composers (1964). Recognition also came when her Sonata for B flat Clarinet and Piano (1964) won equal first prize with Dulcie Holland's Elegy for Flute and Piano in the Australian Composer's Competition---the same competition that had brought success to Sonata II.
In 1969, due to ill health, Meta Overman and her husband returned to Holland. What was intended as a short stay turned into nine years, during which time she composed very little music but instead became involved in the philosophical thought of the time.
However, with her return to Perth in 1978 to be with her son and his family, another richly creative period began. An emphasis on music for flute in acknowledgement of her husband's work as a flautist and teacher is apparent and includes Haiku, six pieces for flute and electric piano (1983); Eight Monos for the same combination and her last work, Concertino for Five Flutes (1993).
Three works for piano---Tristan Variations, Tristan Images and Tristan Sonatina*---were written for her grandson while, with Return Trip to Moses, an Oratorio de Camera (1990), she returned to one of her favourite genres.
A review of Meta Overman's compositions reveals an original and imaginative musician---with her markedly individual style apparent in every work. Her early training, combined with changing environmental influences and the use of an idiom made personal by her free approach to the language of music, produces a complete and constantly developing stylistic unity.
Patricia Thorpe, August 1997
* The three Tristan works are published by Matilda Music Press and are available from the Callaway International Resource Centre for Music Education (CIRCME), at the University of Western Australia. All of Meta Overman's original music manuscripts are held at the University's Wigmore Music Library. Some scores are also available for purchase at the Australian Music Centre (see Links Page).
© Hovea Music Press 1996