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Alfred Hill (1869-1960) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Valse triste (solo piano) by Alfred Hill, from the CD enchanted isle

Photo of Alfred Hill

Born in Melbourne on the 16th December, 1869, Alfred Francis Hill spent most of his early life in New Zealand. As a child Hill learnt the cornet and violin, playing the former with Martin Simonsen's opera company at the age of nine, and the latter on tour with Charles Harding's Grand Opera Company in 1884. With his brother John, he travelled to Leipzig, where both Hills studied at the Royal Conservatorium of Music between 1887 and 1891. Alfred Hill studied under Gustav Schreck, Hans Sitt and Oscar Paul during this time, and was the winner of the Helbig Prize. He was invited to play second violin with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and as such played under the conductorship of such composers as Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Max Bruch.

Hill returned to New Zealand, and worked as a violin teacher, recitalist, chamber musician, and conductor of choirs and orchestras such as the Wellington Orchestral Society. With the Belgian violinist Ovide Musin, he toured New Zealand and travelled to Sydney in March 1897. Hill remained in Sydney, teaching, for a number of years. He continued to conduct ensembles such as the Sydney Liedertafel, and the Great Synagogue Choir, and, on the 1st January, 1901, the Commonwealth Celebrations choir of eleven thousand voices and ten brass bands.

From 1902 to 1911 Hill travelled between Australia and New Zealand on a regular basis, writing and conducting opera, in particular. His operas Tapu, or a tale of a Maori pah and A Moorish Maid, or queen of the Riffs, written during this time, were performed in both New Zealand and Australia. He eventually settled in Sydney, becoming the principal of the Austral Orchestral College, and viola player of the Austral String Quartet. In 1913 Hill founded the Australian Opera League with Fritz Hart, as part of an attempt to create an Australian operatic tradition. The League presented Hill's Giovanni and Hart's Pierette in Sydney and Melbourne, but folded soon afterwards. Hill was also a founder of the Sydney Repertory Theatre Society, and a foundation council member (later president) of the Musical Association of New South Wales. While in New Zealand, Hill had been active in the push for a New Zealand Conservatorium of Music, and for the foundation of an institute of Maori studies at Rotarua.

In 1913 Hill was appointed to the advisory committee for the establishment of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, and became its first Professor of Theory and Composition in January 1916. In 1935 he established the Alfred Hill Academy of Music, an institution which was to concentrate on the study of harmony, counterpoint, chamber music and opera. After this enterprise failed and the Academy closed in January, 1937, Hill devoted himself fulltime to composition. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1953 and was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1960.

Alfred Hill died at the age of eighty-nine, on the 30th October, 1960. During his lifetime he had written more than five hundred compositions, including twelve symphonies, numerous concerti, a mass, seventeen string quartets and eight operas. On his death his manuscripts were donated by his widow, Mirrie Hill, to the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Federal Music Library. His papers were given to the Mitchell Library and his books and instruments to the NSW State Conservatorium. The composition award which now bears his name was also founded by Mirrie Hill in memory of her husband.

Teacher/Influence on

Mirrie Hill

Dulcie Holland

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
1960 Order of Australia Companion of the Order For service as a composer and conductor

Analysis & Media

Book: One hand on the manuscript : music in Australian cultural history, 1930-1960 / edited by Nicholas Brown, Peter Campbell, Robyn Holmes, Peter Read & Larry Sitsky.

Book: A distant music : the life and times of Alfred Hill, 1870-1960 / John Mansfield Thomson.

Book: The Australian symphony from Federation to 1960 / Rhoderick McNeill.

- Document: Hill - Concerto for viola and orchestra

- Article: Dawn of a new world symphony