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ClassicsOnline Home » HILL: Symphonies Nos. 3, 'Australia' and 7
Alfred Hill (1870-1960)
Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Australia"
The Lost Hunter
Symphony No. 7 in E minor
The Moon's Golden Horn
The historical evaluation of the development of music in
Australian society and the emergence of creative traditions in the fifth
continent are two themes that impose ever increasing claims upon the resources
of the nation's music industries and scholarship. To meet these challenges, the
need is now recognised to make these traditions better known through research
and distribution of emergent literatures as well as through the recovery of
music written by and for earlier generations of Australians, be it in printed
form, photographic reproduction of manuscripts, and more particularly in the
sonic documentation through sound recordings and on video. It is the ambition
to assuage this need that has stimulated the recorder production of major and
minor works by these Australian composers, whose lives, work and example
generate an emergent historical presence and tradition.
The present series of recordings, representing important
stations in the life and work of Alfred Hill is important on both national and
international historical grounds. In the former instance, it represents the
achievement of a musician who contributed to Australian and New Zealand musical
life in the multiple capacities of composer, conductor, instrumentalist,
pedagogue and polemicist. In the latter instance, it highlights a stream of
musical creativity which, fostered in the conservatories of Europe during the
closing decades of the nineteenth century, thereafter generated response
through imitation to provocation on a widely dispersed and diversified
intercontinental canvas well into the first half of the twentieth century. In
actual chronological and cultural historical terms, the years of Alfred Hill's
activity in Australia and New Zealand coincided with the decades of a
progressive post-colonial emancipation towards a more important national
Following upon his earliest musical tradition, education and
musical experiences gained in Australia, Alfred Hill was admitted in 1887 to
the Royal Conservatory at Leipzig, then under the directorship of the
formidable Carl Reinecke, at that time also Gewandhauskapellmeister, who later
engaged Hill for this orchestra. Hill's mentors and teachers at the Royal
Conservatory included such locally and nationally renowned figures as Gustav
Ernst Schreck (late Kapellmeister at the Church of St Thomas), the violinist
and conductor Hans Sitt (1850-1922), whose artistic example was to prove so
seminal for Hill himself. Hill acquired a battery of orthodox techniques in
composition at Leipzig, at a time, however, when the young Richard Strauss,
Gustav Mahler and Hans Pfitzner were already upsurgent forces in German music.
Mahler was at that time the ambitious young Kapellmeister at the Leipzig
opera-house under Arthur Nikisch.
From Leipzig, Hill returned to the Antipodes, becoming
director of the Wellington Orchestral Society. Thereafter, until his
appointment as professor of harmony and composition at the newly established
New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music in 1916, Hill travelled to and
fro across the Tasman Sea between Sydney and New Zealand as conductor of
orchestras, choral societies, Liedertafeln and opera seasons under various
commercial managements. At this stage, his main creative energies were directed
towards the creation of operas, light operas, oratorios and cantatas with texts
drawing upon conventional European themes and Afro-Orientalist exoticism, as
well as Australian and New Zealand indigenous folklore and mythology.
If music-theatrical works predominate in the years before
1915, the next quarter century, 1915-1940, emphasized such genres as the
concertos and the seventeen string quartets, while the symphonies, dating
mainly after 1940, are revisions of selected earlier string quartets and other
These unusual origins are well exemplified in the creative
histories of the Symphony No. 3 in B minor "Australia" and the
Symphony No. 7 in E minor.
The origins of the "Australia" symphony are
traceable for three of its movements to the String Quartet No. 14 in B
minor, which Hill completed on 25th November 1937. The comparable movements
are the first (total length in both works 372 measures), the second Adagio (quartet,
112 measures; symphony, 118 measures) and the Finale (quartet, 252
measures; symphony, 258 measures). The third movement Scherzo in the
string quartet - a Minuet and Trio - was not taken over from this
original context for use in the Australia symphony; instead Hill
preferred to adapt sections of the sound-track he had composed for the film
production Arnhem Land in association with the author-anthropologist
C.P. Mountford. The novelty of this adaptation is also underscored in the
highly contrasted idiomatic disparity between this movement and the remaining
three movements of the symphony.
Another disparity to distinguish the Australia symphony (1951)
from the String Quartet No. 14 was Hill's decision to identify the
symphony with a literary programme. This programme, set out as an inscription
on the inside cover of the full score, and dated 12th February 1951, reads:
1. Introduction -The lonely, silent land (home
tonality B minor-major)
2. Australia, mysterious and beautiful (B
3. The Aborigines (G major)
4. The Challenge (B minor-major)
There follows a more detailed programme inscription stating:
The heart of Australia is lonely and silent. On
the fringe of the great island continent, men crowd like ants into the cities
they have made. Some seek quieter places.
Australia with its vast plains, forest ranges,
and subterranean caves is an eerie place and very beautiful.
In the deep recesses of the Australia they once owned,
a few aboriginal tribes still go walk-about. They have their food, sing their
songs and dance their tribal rituals.
There is a challenge to Australians to build a world
worthy of their race and country.
(The descriptive implicit optimism of this programme shares
a common ethos with the text of the second symphony Joy of Life.)
The full score is preceded by verses from a poem by George
Her song is silence, unto her
Its mystery clings.
Silence is the interpreter
Of deeper things.
O for sonorous voice and strong
To change that silence into song!
To give that melody release
Which sleeps in the deep heart of peace
With folded wings.
The first movement, moving from B minor to major, commences
with a slow introduction, suggesting the opening line of the original
programme. The following allegro movement is one of a sonata type, based upon a
rhythmically energetic upsurgent melody, suggestive of the metropolitan
tensions implicit in Hill's appended programme, and is admirably contrasted by
a change to a broader duple meter for the more relaxed and contemplative
secondary subject material, the thinkers in search of quieter locations.
The following Adagio is a ruminatory lyric movement,
again in triple time, introduced through successive phrases for French horn and
clarinet. Its ternary form with a more animated middle section in the dominant
(F sharp major) adheres to a pattern often favoured by Hill for movements of
this type - that of the lyric piece or Charakterstück of the late
In contrast to this is the softly languid, nostalgic
miniaturisation in the scherzo in G major, with its main flanking sections in
5/4 time. This more asymmetric movement, assembled from a film sound-track
score, enabled Hill to employ more ochred hues in orchestration and the shaping
of musical periods than in other movements of the symphony.
The concluding Finale derives its impetus from two
succeeding ideas, the chorale-styled ascending theme for brass with which the
movement commences and the subject based on type rhythms which follows.
By comparison with the foregoing, Hill's compositional
methods return to the greater orthodoxy of the earlier movements. It is in this
movement in particular that Hill is seen confronting both those rhetorical and
purely musical problems that emerge in having to recast an originally absolute
music for string quartet as orchestral programme music.
Although the autograph score offers no referential dates
outlining the period of this work' s composition, important secondary evidence
is provided in the account sent by Ernest Pass dated 12th March 1956 for the
copying of the work. Again an antecedent work source can be discovered among
Hill's earlier string quartets, namely the Quartet No. 10 in E minor dated
22nd June 1935; as a result, this work has a chronologically earlier antecedent
than the Australia symphony. Whereas the third symphony drew upon two
models, the E minor symphony (in common with the remaining works in this
canon) is based exclusively upon one string quartet. While most of Hill's
quartets and symphonies highlight a recognition of the unity through the cyclic
principle of thematically interrelated movements, it is in this symphony that
Hill sought to pursue this process with greater concentration and rigour than
was usual for him. The result is a work which, on purely formal thematic
criteria, was perhaps his most interesting.
The sequence of movements with their tonalities remains
orthodox - the sequence being I, E minor - major; II, Adagio A (- C
sharp minor - E) - A; III Scherzo B major (Trio in E); IV, Finale
E minor - major. The progression of home tonalities is thus conventional I
- IV - V - I, one that conformed with the tonal orthodoxy of the Leipzig school
of a Reinecke, Schreck or Sitt.
The first movement, after a slow introduction in which the
basic elements of the motto encapsulated in the intonations for the brass instruments,
is soon energised by an animated (allegro) maestoso subject which is in
itself succeeded by more broadly paced and expressive themes, highlighting
their derivation from the motto cells, rather than the assertively jagged
triple time allegro maestoso theme. Thereafter the first movement, while
incorporating some developmental and reprise elements of the sonata process,
makes its point through the juxtaposition of ideas obtained from the motto, the
energetic maestoso, and a more generously lyrical, flowing dolce theme,
an idea that would have attracted the encomia of Hill's "Leipzig"
The second movement in the subdominant with a contrastingly
more animated middle section, is inaugurated by motive-based material, with
simple accompanimental figuration for two oboes before being taken over by solo
horn. Several variants of this enter before appearing in the dominant and its
relative minor, signifying the more thickly textured and animated middle
section. Thereafter the opening section, somewhat abridged, returns until the
movement ebbs away quickly through the strings.
Once again Hill has evolved a scherzo (3/4 in B major)
providing an athletic contrast to what has gone before. Its theme is a lithe,
upward-surging hemiolic idea, stretched across the bar lines, from which
emerges a sustained movement in driving triple time to which the broader,
descending melodic patterns of the Trio in E major furnish relief and
The Finale is in some respects Hill¡¦s most
adventurous essay in the solution of a perennial nineteenth century problem. In
contrast to the commencement of the Finale to the Australia symphony,
where an arresting chorale-like ascending idea was employed, Hill reverts
here to a reassertion of the motivic derived cells, before a fluent idea in
quavers for violins against lightly textured pizzicato accompaniment, next
heard in imitation by violas, is introduced. These materials generate their own
activities, until by dénouement Hill attains a rhetorical coup de
théâtre through the introduction of an apotheosis in which the principal
ideas of the preceding movements are all successively reintroduced, and
rejected, as if recalling such earlier precedents as in Beethoven's Ninth
Symphony or Berwald's Symphonie Singulière, and similar experiments
among several minor composers whose works Hill may have recalled from the
Gewandhaus repertory of that time. At the conclusion of this apotheosis, Hill
provided a reprise and coda commencing on a tonic pedal-point and emphasising
the aforementioned quaver figuration, to conclude the symphony.
Alfred Hill¡¦s orchestral production offered generous
accommodation for the inclusion of numerous smaller essays, as a rule small
scale miniature symphonic poems, or else short character or lyric pieces,
usually requiring orchestras of modest resources and dimensions. The tone poem The
Lost Hunter for orchestra dated "Sydney, 7th January 1945" is an
example of the former of these two categories. This work, of a little less than
fifteen minutes' duration, is prefaced by the composer's own literary
Enraptured by the beauty of the forest, a hunter strayed
from his friends and lost his way. He heard horns in the distance, but could
not find a way out of the tangled wood. As night was approaching, he sought a
sheltered spot to await the dawn. Tired out with the day's exertions, he fell
asleep. In his dreams, the trees took on shapes and appeared menacing, so he
blew a blast on this horn. Suddenly the scene changed to one of sunlight and
shimmering trees. The animals and birds were friendly, and he joined in their
garnbols. After a day of supreme happiness, it grew dark again, and his little
friends left him to the gloom of the night. He blew on his horn, in case his
friends were searching for him. But only the sounds of nature answered him. But
hark! Far away in the distance he heard answering horn and before long there
was a happy reunion.
The work in C major is in several clearly defined sections
with their subdivisions, representing the hunter, his horn, the mystery of the
forest, and its fauna. Of these, the sonata-influenced, thematically related
sequences represent the dream episode and the events leading to the reunion,
thereby interrelating the spheres of dream and reality. A simple, evocative,
wistful naturalism is achieved through Hill¡¦s apt strokes of orchestration.
The brief, evocative, lyric piece The Moon's Golden Horn,
dating from 1927, rests in the home tonality of E major, within which
imaginative turns of modulation and instrumentation impart atmosphere and
continuity, starting with the opening measures with very atmospheric figuration
for flute supported by harp, and an imaginative entry for solo horn, testifying
to Hill's delight in poetic miniaturism.
© Andrew D. McCredie
The 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
performance for opera and ballet, in addition to a busy schedule of recordings
and broadcasts. The orchestra is directed by the Chinese conductor Muhai Tang,
whose early development, after study at the Shanghai Conservatory, was fostered
by Herbert von Karajan. He is now in his fourth year as Chief Conductor.
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 Violin
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. After his return to Australia in 1971, he has served as
Concertmaster and Assistant Conductor of 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 Lehmann is a prolific composer, with a commissioned symphony and cello
concerto and works for chorus and chamber groups.
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HILL: Symphonies Nos. 3, 'Australia' and 7