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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Krips, Henry Joseph (1912–1987)

by Zaiga Sudrabs

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Henry Joseph Krips (1912-1987), conductor, composer and pianist, was born on 10 February 1912 in Vienna, youngest of five sons of Josef Jakob Krips, medical doctor, and his wife Aloisia, née Seitz. Named Heinrich Josef, he grew up in a musical household; the conductor Josef Krips was his brother. Heinrich was educated at the Vienna Conservatory of Music and Vienna University; he made his conducting début at the city’s Burgtheater in 1932. Further appointments followed at Innsbruck and Salzburg, at the Vienna Volksoper and at open-air festivals. He also composed an opera, Fiordaliso (1936). Although Krips’s parents were both Catholic, he had Jewish ancestry. On 3 September 1938 in Vienna he married Luise Pauline Deutsch; they migrated to Australia, arriving in Sydney in November.

Now calling himself Henry, Krips soon found work in the music industry. He composed and directed the scores for several Australian films, including Gone to the Dogs (1939), Come up Smiling (1939), Dad Rudd, M.P. (1940) and The Power and the Glory (1941). For the Kirsova [q.v.15] Ballet he wrote the music for Faust (1941) and The Revolution of the Umbrellas (1943) and provided piano accompaniment for performances. In 1942-43 he was employed as musical director with George Patterson Pty Ltd’s radio unit. He was naturalised on 10 July 1944. That year he conducted the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Sydney Symphony Orchestra during the opera season presented by the newly formed Krips-de Vries Grand Opera Company. With his wife he developed a passion for collecting Australian art, Aboriginal artefacts and carved Chinese jade.

In 1946-48 Krips conducted the SSO, and the Sydney Light Symphony Orchestra at its Music for Millions concerts. He was appointed conductor of the Perth Symphony Orchestra in 1948. Described by a critic, Raymond Bowers, as a `powerhouse of enthusiasm’, he promised to perform `Mahler, Britten, Bax, Bruckner, a pageant of composers known only to Perth from recordings and hearsay’. He wrote the music for the films Smithy (1946) and Charles Chauvel’s epic Sons of Matthew (1949).

In 1949 Krips became resident conductor of the newly constituted South Australian Symphony Orchestra. Over the following years, with his customary energy and enthusiasm, he raised it to a very high standard. He also performed as guest-conductor in other States. Six ft (183 cm) tall, with fair hair and blue eyes, he was a charming personality, both on and off the concert platform. He wrote music, winning prizes for several compositions: Land of Mine, a national song (1951); Southern Intermezzo, a piece for the saxophone (1956); and Kirribilli, a light orchestral composition (1959). In 1953 he took leave for nine months to study trends in music in Britain and Europe, and to conduct orchestras in Vienna and London. Further leave was granted in 1955 and 1957; eventually Krips spent a part of each year overseas, where he conducted many leading British and European orchestras at concerts, operas and recording sessions. He developed his skills and reputation as a conductor and took back to Australia orchestral works that had never been performed there before. Credited with introducing Australian audiences to Mahler, in 1963 he was awarded honorary membership of the International Gustav Mahler Society, Vienna. In 1967 the president of Austria conferred on him the title of professor `in recognition of his outstanding work for Austrian music in Australia’. He was appointed MBE in 1970.

After retiring from his post with the SASO in March 1972, Krips continued to work as a guest-conductor in Australia and overseas, making appearances in Korea (1978) and Canada (1979). He enjoyed playing tennis and squash. Survived by his wife (d.2001) and their two sons, he died on 25 January 1987 in North Adelaide and was cremated. Next month Harold Tidemann wrote in the Adelaide Advertiser:

His debonair charm, not forgetting the Austrian accent which never left him, endeared him to a wide circle. No other con­ductor could quite as effectively reproduce that Viennese lilt and few will forget that irrepressible movement of his which so aptly expressed the German walzen, `to revolve’.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Buttrose, Playing for Australia (1982)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 Sept 1949, p 2, 15 June 1951, p 1, 20 Apr 1954, p 2, 27 Oct 1970, p 9, 17 May 1980, p 14, 26 Jan 1987, p 3, 26 Feb 1987, p 20
  • 24 Hours, Apr 1987, p 10
  • series A446, item 1953/23591 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Zaiga Sudrabs, 'Krips, Henry Joseph (1912–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Krips, Heinrich Josef

10 February 1912
Vienna, Austria


25 January 1987
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence