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ClassicsOnline Home » HILL: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 6 / The Sacred Mountain
Symphony No. 4 in C
Minor "The Pursuit of Happiness"
Symphony No. 6 in B
composer Alfred Francis Hill was born in Melbourne in 1870, a member of a
musical family. His early experience of music was as a violinist in the kind of
small orchestras employed at the time by travelling opera companies. In 1887 he
went to Leipzig, where he was to spend a period of four years as a student of
Gustav Schreck, taking lessons from the violinist Hans Sitt, and from the
scholar Oscar Paul. The influence of Leipzig, where Hill played under Carl
Reinecke in the Gewandhaus Orchestra, remained strong in his later career, as
did the example of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Bruch and Hermann Götz. As a
Gewandhaus Orchestra player, Hill also took part in concerts directed by
Tchaikovsky and Brahms.
In 1892 Hill went to
New Zealand, where he became conductor of the Wellington Choral Society, and
was active as a soloist and teacher. At the same time he embarked on a series
of compositions that made use of material of Maori origin, his interest in this
music later being extended to include the music of Australian aboriginals and
of New Guinea. Works of direct Maori inspiration include the first of his
numbered symphonies, the Maori and the choral works Hinemoa, a Maori Legend and
After four years in
Wellington, Hill returned to Australia as a member of the ensemble directed by
the Belgian violinist Ovide Musin, settling, when the ensemble was disbanded,
in Sydney, where he directed concerts for the Professional Orchestral Concerts
Association and the Sydney Liedertafel.
In 1902, Hill went
back to New Zealand to direct his Maori opera Tapu, and to conduct the first
professional orchestra of the colony at the International Exhibition in
Christchurch in 1906 and 1907. The following year he was again in Sydney, where
he was active on the staff of the Austral Orchestral College and with the
Australian Opera League, for which he wrote the one-act opera Giovanni, the Sculptor,
seen during the League's opening season in 1914.
In 1913 Hill had been
a member of the advisory committee on the establishment of the New South Wales
Conservatorium, and joined the staff as professor of harmony and composition in
1916, retaining his position until his resignation in 1934, after a
disagreement with the new English principal, Edgar Bainton. He died in Sydney
in 1960, having remained until the end of his life a leading influence in the
musical life of Australia and New Zealand.
include a number of dramatic works from the 1898 opera, Lady Dolly, up to The
Ship of Heaven, first staged in Sydney in 1933. The next five years brought a
concentration on chamber music, with 17 string quartets, and a number of
sonatas and ensemble pieces. It was principally during the final twenty years
of his life that Hill turned to larger forms of composition, re-arranging some
of his chamber music for full orchestra.
Of Hill's thirteen
symphonies, the majority are arrangements of earlier works, principally the
string quartets that occupied him in the 1930s. The first symphony, written
between 1896 and 1900, the Maori, was originally designed for orchestra, but it
was not until 1941 that the second appeared, with the title Joy of Life,
derived from a chamber piece, Life.
In 1951 Hill wrote his
third numbered symphony, Australia, and this was followed in 1955 by the
fourth, The Pursuit of Happiness, an apt title for a work of great lyrical
interest. The tenth symphony appeared in 1958, the total of thirteen including
three earlier, undated works.
In style Hill retained
the late romantic manner and musical vocabulary of his early years in Leipzig,
a tradition followed in the title and programmes of his orchestral music. By
1955, music of this kind could only appear an anachronism, but the date of
composition should not prevent the enjoyment of music that demonstrates a sure
command of the orchestral idiom of an earlier generation, as the symphony moves
from an impressive opening through a lyrical, slow movement to an exciting
finale with the right amount of contrapuntal activity.
Hill dedicated the C
minor Symphony to the Austrian conductor Henry Krips, who occupied an important
position in Australian musical life after emigrating from his native country in
1938. The score carries on the title-page a quotation from the philosopher
Bertrand Russell, capped by an epigram by William Morris: "Whether your
life is a happy or an unhappy one is likely to depend on your work as much as
upon anyone factor. There are few greater sources of happiness than really
creative work. In its highest flights this must always be the privilege of
exceptionally gifted people, but in humbler form it could be very common",
followed by, "Happiness without daily work is impossible."
The composer explained
the first movement, The Search, in programmatic terms. The introductory Allegro
represents the hazy country, the Kingdom of Happiness, shadowed by dreams: the
first subject of the movement gropes in the dark for light that is always
there, if unseen, with the second providing a glimpse of some impossible
heaven: the coda suggests that the evening of life may bring joy. The second
movement, The Heart of Man, presents the heart of man as an exquisitely tender
thing, with a second subject standing for human aspirations towards the highest
The Finale, The
Solution, suggests in its first subject that the great source of happiness is
work, useful, creative and constructive. The second subject adds that work
brings joy, followed by a chorale that proposes the idea that even the humblest
form of work will make us thankful for the gift of life.
Hill's short symphonic
sketch The Sacred Mountain is again characteristic of his style, a rhapsodic
evocation that serves to remind us of the composer's ability as a writer of
film music, coupled with a sure handling of orchestral texture. Tongariro was
the sacred mountain of Tuwharetoa, the great ancestor of the Taupo people. From
Tongariro white mist floats into the crater of Pihanga, an allusion to the
legend that Pihanga was Tongariro's wife, and that the clouds seen drifting
from one to the other are visible tokens of his love for his mountain-spouse.
Hill adapted his
Symphony No. 6 in B-flat from a string quartet of 1938, dedicating the symphony
to Henry Krips, who conducted the first performance in Adelaide in 1956, the
year of its completion. The first movement opens with a slow introduction,
followed by an Allegretto, the principal theme of which declares its Irish
origin. A second, more tranquil subject appears with a slow section that
prepares the return of the thematic material that now takes the movement to a
lively conclusion. An Irish song, Shule Agra (Walk, my darling), forms the
basis of the second movement, with violin cadenzas provided by Hill's wife. It
is followed by a scherzo in the form of an Irish jig. The finale, after a slow
introduction, turns to lighter thoughts, into which a Celtic element is
absorbed to produce a work that seems worthy of one of the great nationalist
composers of the late nineteenth century, in an Irish frame of mind.
Lehmann made his London début in 1952. Between 1952 and 1954, he gave concerts
in Europe, including Paris, Lisbon, Vienna, Geneva, Brussels and Warsaw. He
became a member of London's Philharmonia Orchestra, whose regular conductor at
that time was Herbert von Karajan. Winning first prize at the Carl Flesch
International Violin Competition, he appeared with most leading British Orchestras,
was appointed leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra directed by
Sir Adrian Boult, and also appeared with leading British orchestras in concert
performances, BBC and commercial television, and toured extensively in Europe
During his ten years
residence in Japan as concert master of the Tokyo Philharmonic and the Tokyo
Metropolitan Symphony Orchestras, Wilfred Lehmann was engaged to conduct on
numerous occasions. Since his return to Australia in 1971, he has conducted the
Oueensland Symphony Orchestra on numerous occasions, and returned to Japan in
December 1972 for further conducting engagements. In 1973 he received most
favourable reviews as guest conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and as
a result has repeatedly directed the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and ABC
Orchestras, in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. In 1979-1980, he was Music
Director for the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, in Tennessee, U.S.A. In 1981,
Wilfred Lehmann was appointed the Director of the ABC Sinfonia.
The Melbourne Symphony
Orchestra is currently maintained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,
in conjunction with the Government of Victoria, and consists of 88 professional
musicians. One of the major factors behind the success of the MSO has been the
influence of a long and distinguished line of guest conductors and soloists,
each of whom has added an individual nuance of style, technique or temperament.
Because most of these visiting artists have come from Europe or the United
States, and because a high proportion of the orchestra members themselves are
of European extraction, the MSO can truly claim to be a cosmopolitan orchestra
well abreast of the latest trends in music and styles of interpretation.
Chief Conductors have
included such eminent figures as Alceo Galliera, Juan Jose Castro, Walter
Susskind, Kurt Woess, Georges Tzipine, Willem van Otterloo, Fritz Rieger and
Hiroyuki Iwaki. Among the visiting conductors have been Klemperer, Barbirolli,
Sargent, Stravinsky, Cluytens, Horenstein, Krips, Jorda, Schmidt-Isserstedt,
Martinon, Kurt, Silvestri, Dorati, Markevitch, Kubelik, Ferencsik, Ehrling,
Kletzki, Mackerras and Copland.
In addition to its
public concert commitments which number approximately 117 each year, the MSO
performs regularly on ABC Radio and Television, and continues to enjoy
considerable success in concert appearances at house and abroad.
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