Author(s): Rhoderick McNeill
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.