The Australian Symphony from Federation to 1960
The symphony retained its primacy as the most prestigious large-scale orchestral form throughout the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in Britain, Russia and the United States. Likewise, Australian composers produced a steady stream of symphonies throughout the period from Federation (1901) through to the end of the 1950s. Stylistically, these works ranged from essays in late nineteenth-century romanticism, twentieth-century nationalism, neo-classicism and near-atonality. Australian symphonies were most prolific during the 1950s, with 36 local entries in the 1951 Commonwealth Jubilee Symphony competition. This extensive repertoire was overshadowed by the emergence of a new generation of composers and critics during the 1960s who tended to regard older Australian music as old-fashioned and derivative. The Australian Symphony from Federation to 1960 is the first study of this neglected genre and has four aims: firstly, to show the development of symphonic composition in Australia from Federation to 1960; secondly, to highlight the achievement of the main composers who wrote symphonies; thirdly, to advocate the restoration and revival of this repertory; and, lastly, to take a step towards a recasting of the narrative of Australian concert music from Federation to the present. In particular, symphonies by Marshall-Hall, Hart, Bainton, Hughes, Le Gallienne and Morgan emerge as works of particular note.
’It is not often that an elegantly written, well researched book can be used as an advocacy tool, but Rhoderick McNeill’s thorough investigation of the symphonies written before 1960 by Australian composers is one that requires attention ... McNeill’s book is a work of exemplary scholarship and fills a significant gap in the knowledge of Australia’s musical heritage. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian and international symphonic music is invaluable and informs his insightful critiques of this repertoire. The coverage of the subject’s literature and the extensive bibliography make the book a useful volume for research ... McNeill’s book is a most welcome addition to the corpus of musicological publications on Australian music’. The Music Trust. musictrust.com.au ’Finally, a book about the advent and growth of the symphony genre in Australia, a much-neglected field of research ... Exceedingly well written and in an easily-readable style, this is an extraordinary book, very highly recommended and a ’must-have’ for teachers and students studying not only ’the symphony’ but how the writings of Australian composers fit into that overall fabric. It is a treasure of information and with its first-class detailed footnotes and select bibliography will become the definitive resource on this particular subject’. The Studio, (quarterly magazine of The Music Teachers’ Association of NSW Ltd)