Alfred Hill (1870-1960)
Symphony No. 5 in A minor, "The Carnival"
As Night Falls, Poem tor Orchestra A Rêverie
Short Symphony (No. 10) in C major
Tribute to a Musician
The Australian composer Alfred Francis Hill was born in Melbourne in 1870, the son of a halter who had moved to Australia from England in order, at first, to seek his fortune in the gold-fields. His father had musical interests and in New Zealand, where the family had moved in 1872, Hill had a chance to develop his musical interests, as he grew up, playing the cornet in the family amateur concert party. Eventually he was able to learn the violin, in which he acquired some proficiency, and it was on the advice of a visiting virtuoso, Brahms"s former collaborator, the violinist Ede Reményi, that it was decided That Hill and an older brother, a singer, should be sent to study in Leipzig. Hill spent four years there as a student of Gustav Schreck, a thorough teacher who taught him harmony and encouraged his composition. He also took lessons from the violinist Hans Sill and from The musicologist Oscar Paul. The influence of Leipzig, where he played in the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Carl Reinecke and in concerts directed by Tchaikovsky, Brahms and other leading composers of the time, remained strong throughout his life, as did the continuing example of Mendelssohn, founder of The Leipzig Conservatory.
By The end of 1891 Hill was back in Wellington, celebrating his return by a violin recital in which he included some of his own compositions. He now set himself up as a teacher and assumed the direction of the Wellington Orchestral Society, doing much to raise the standard of music-making. At the same time he embarked on a series of compositions that made use of material of Maori origin, his interest in this later extended to include the music of Australian aboriginals and of New Guinea. Works of direct Maori inspiration include the first of his thirteen numbered symphonies, the Maori, and the choral works Hinemoa, described as a Maori pageant, and the Maori cantata Tawhaki. In 1896, however, a disagreement arose with the Wellington Orchestral Society over the planned, appearance with the orchestra of the pianist, the Chevalier de Kontski, who claimed to be a pupil of Beethoven and planned to play a concerto by his alleged teacher with a blanket covering the keyboard. Charles de Kontski was in fact a pupil of John Field and had also studied with Thalberg. As a pupil of Simon Sechter he had prolific competence also as a composer, chiefly of salon pieces. Hill refused to cooperate in the suggested enterprise, quarrelled with the Orchestral Society and resigned from his position. He was able now to join the company of the Belgian violinist Ovide Musin for a tour of New Zealand and, subsequently, of Australia, where Hill decided to settle, when Musin"s company was disbanded, before the latter"s return to Europe. In Sydney he directed concerts for the Professional Orchestral Concerts Association and the Sydney Liedertafel and some of his compositions were heard, but 1902 brought a return to New Zealand, in the first instance for the staging of his Maori opera Tapu, with which he toured the country in 1903.
Now based in New Zealand, Hill was appointed, after some controversy, as conductor for the Christchurch International Exhibition in 1906 and 1907. The following year he was back again in Sydney, where he was active as a teacher, conductor, composer and performer, teaching harmony and composition at the Austral School of Music and for a time a member of the Austral Quartet. For the Australian Opera League he wrote the one-act opera Giovanni, the Sculptor, seen during the League"s opening season in 1914. The outbreak of war, however, effectively prevented further ventures of this kind. In 1913 Hill had become a member of the advisory committee concerned with the establishment of the New South Wales Conservatorium. In 1916 he became professor of harmony and d, composition there, a position he retained until his resignation in 1934, when he was passed over by the appointment of Edgar Bainton as director. He continued, however, to exercise considerable influence in the musical life of both Australia and New Zealand, until his death in 1960.
Hill"s compositions include a number of dramatic works, from the opera Lady Dolly, first staged in 1900, up to The Ship of Heaven, completed in 1923 and first given a fully staged performance in Sydney ten years later. The years after 1933 brought eleven more string quartets, to add to the six earlier works in this form. He also wrote a number of sonatas and ensemble pieces. It was principally during the last twenty years of his life that he turned to larger forms of composition, re-arranging earlier chamber music for full orchestra. At the same time he left a very considerable quantity of keyboard compositions, songs and choral works, in a total list of some five hundred compositions of all kinds.
Hill"s Symphony No. 5 in A minor, "Camival", was derived, in 1955, from the 1912 String Quartet in A minor. At the time of the original composition he had joined Cyril Monk"s Austral Quartet as second violin, w but the transformation of the "Carnival" Quartet is complete. The work opens with a lively first movement, proceeding to an equally energetic Scherzo. The slow movement opens with a gently drawn-out melody, as always in the style inculcated in Leipzig in the 1890s and none the worse for that. The tradition survived with Hill in part because of his own conservatism but was also a result of his relative isolation from the mainstream of Western music and the new course it was taking, even in 1912, and most certainly by 1955. The Adagio is a fine example of music of an earlier age and is followed by an Allego risoluto, a dance movement of varied textures, including an episode for solo violin and a solemn chorale, framed by the emphatic Spanish-style dance that provides the main thematic element in the movement.
As Night Falls, described as a Poem for Orchestra and originally apparently for piano, is evocative and lyrical, befitting its title. It is followed by a gently poignant and romantic orchestral piece, A Rêverie. The Short Symphony in C major (No. 10) was written in 1958 and is again based on an earlier String Quartet in C major, written twenty years before, after Hill"s resignation from the New South Wales Conservatorium. The first movement starts with a slow, solemn and relatively extended opening section, leading to a lively Allegro, which suddenly emerges in all its romantic lyricism, to return once more to the mood with which the movement began, before ending in full lyrical splendour. The slow movement launches itself into sombre territory, the main thematic material framing a central lyrical section featuring solo woodwind, in which each instrument takes its turn. The symphony ends with a vigorous enough Allegretto, which belies the direction that heads it. This and what goes before are testimony to the soundness of Hill"s craftsmanship and to the effectiveness of his schooling in Leipzig, as well as to a distinct affinity to the composers of the late nineteenth century in Europe, to Grieg and to Dvořák, and others of his own generation.
The present release of orchestral music by Alfred Hill ends with two relative short pieces. The first, Regrets, aptly illustrates the emotion of its title. It is followed by Tribute to a Musician, a celebration of the musical tradition in which he had been raised.
Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Since its first concert in 1947, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra has established itself as a major cultural force within the state of Queensland and in Australia, with a subscription series and concerts for children and young people, studio performances of twentieth-century works and performances of opera and ballet, in addition to a busy schedule or recordings and broadcasts. The orchestra is directed by the Chinese conductor Muhai Tang, whose early development, after study at the Shanghai Conservatory, was rostered by Herbert von Karajan.
Wilfred Lehmann, one of Australia"s most versatile musicians, is an internationally acclaimed violinist, conductor and composer. He made his London début in 1952 and thereafter gave concerts throughout England, becoming a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham. In 1958 he won first prize in the Carl Flesch International Competition, a triumph followed by numerous concert engagements in Europe, Japan, Australia and the former Soviet Union. His conducting career began in Japan, where he lived for ten years taking the Tokyo Philharmonic and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony on tour and returning periodically for engagements in Australia. . Since his return to Australia in 1971, he has served as Concertmaster and Assistant Conductor or the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, making frequent guest appearances as conductor of all the Australian radio orchestras. From 1976 to 1979 he was Concertmaster and Associate Concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and formed the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. Wilfred Lebmann is a prolific composer, with a commissioned symphony and cello concerto and works for chorus and chamber groups.