Max Olding, the prominent Australian pianist, conductor, and teacher, has passed away. Olding was born in 1929 and grew up in Launceston, Tasmania, where he was a contemporary of the Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. The pair often competed against one another in local piano competitions — with Olding joking that "Peter always won the slow pieces and I always won the fast pieces!"
Olding's international career as a pianist was launched in 1952 when he won the Australian Broadcasting Company's Concerto Competition, an honor that afforded him a wide range of concerto appearances with professional orchestras before he had even left Australia.
Olding met his wife, Pamela Page, in 1954, when the pair were tied for first place in a piano competition. They shared a remarkable concert career together, touring to the UK, USA, much of south-east Asia, and across the Antipodes. They were also the recipients of multiple commissioned works, by Sculthorpe, Margaret Sutherland, Philip Bračanin, and John Carmichael.
The couple's son, Dene Olding, is the concertmaster emeritus of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the first violinist of the Goldner Quartet, and a member of the Australia Ensemble.
Max Olding was also a highly influential pedagogue. Most recently, he had been teaching in the postgraduate program at the University of Queensland, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2011. Prior to this post, he also taught at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium, Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University, QUT, and the City University of New York.
"So sad to hear about the incredible pianist, teacher and pedagogue Max Olding AM, who passed away this week," wrote pianist Simon Tedeschi on social media. "He possessed a constellation of qualities you often see in different people but not always in one person: erudition, intelligence, kindness, musicality and command of presence. An extraordinary man and musician."
Our condolences to Mr. Olding's family, friends, students, and colleagues.