G.W.L. Marshall-Hall (1862-1915) is a name that is now little known in the United Kingdom. Yet his provenance is second to none. He was born in London and studied with Parry and Stanford. Soon assuming a place of importance in the musical life of London, he wrote a number of significant works which reached a degree of popularity. In 1892 he emigrated to Australia to become Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne. He was a ‘character’ – Bohemian would have been the contemporary epithet - and had a colourful career. He was sacked from the University for publishing a ‘sacrilegious’ book. However he was eventually reinstated in 1915, a few months before his death. His catalogue includes operas, chamber music songs and symphonic works.
The Symphony in Eb was written for ‘his friends and comrades under the Southern Cross.’ The composer wrote, ‘…it represents in purely lyrical form the manifold impressions of various lives upon an ardent, active temperament. Scenes, impressions, passions, activities, continuously succeed each other, as in life itself.’
It has been described as ‘exuberant and rich in orchestral colours with strong thematic ideas.’ (MOVE Record Label Advert for CD MD 3091) This is seemingly passionate and approachable music nodding to both Brahms and Wagner with a touch of the forelock to Schumann. The Brisbane Sunday Mail wrote that this symphony “breathes the spirit of romanticism…the slow movement particularly reflecting the Australian outback.”
Although this Symphony has been issued on CD it seems virtually impossible to acquire a copy. Let us hope that some enterprising record company will re-issue this work in the near future.