George William Louis Marshall-Hall (1862-1915), composer, conductor and professor of music, was born on 28 March 1862 in London, son of Marshall Hall and his wife Mary Eliza, née Mammatt; he was a...
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
G.W.L. Marshall-Hall was a significant figure on the Australian opera and orchestral scene, and in music education at the turn of the twentieth century. His public life was rather controversial.
Between appointments in England as an organist, choirmaster, and teacher, Marshall-Hall attended the Royal College of Music, studying organ with Walter Parratt, composition with Hubert Parry and counterpoint with Frederick Bridge. In 1888 he became director of the orchestra and choral society and teacher at the London Organ School and College of Music. He launched himself energetically into London musical life as a composer of operas and orchestral works. By 1890, an excerpt from his opera Harold had been performed by Charles Santley at the Crystal Palace, and his first published work, A Song Cycle of Life and Love had been enthusiastically reviewed by George Bernard Shaw.
In 1891 Marshall-Hall emigrated to Australia to become the first Ormond Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne. He composed prolifically in Australia, his works including several overtures and symphonies, concerti, operas, string quartets, and music for stage works. He founded the Marshall-Hall Orchestra in 1892, which inherited the standards, scores and some of the personnel of previous Melbourne orchestras, the 1888 Centennial Exhibition Orchestra and its successor, the Victorian Orchestra. The orchestra gave first performances of many of Marshall-Hall's instrumental and vocal compositions, as well as Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and the latest French and German works, at a standard hitherto unknown in Melbourne.
In 1894-1895 with W.A. Laver, Marshall-Hall established the Melbourne University Conservatorium, which later became the Albert Street Conservatorium. A charismatic teacher, his championship of Wagner and Schopenhauer soon attracted comment, and his outspoken views on every issue from religion to politics created trouble. A man of bohemian tastes and habits, he became associated with Arthur Streeton and other Heidelberg painters. Following the publication of his collection of poems Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1898, the press accused him of lewdness, lasciviousness and anti-clericalism. As a result, he lost his appointment as Ormond Professor in 1910, but since he was the lessee of the Conservatorium, he continued to teach. The University set up a rival teaching programme.
The Marshall-Hall Orchestra became unfinancial and last performed in 1912. Disillusioned, he returned to Europe to promote his own music. A production of his opera Romeo and Juliet was scheduled for production in Nuremberg, but was cancelled. Stella, an opera first performed in Melbourne in 1912, was produced at the London Palladium in 1914. The Ormond Chair of Music again fell vacant in 1914 and, despite controversy, Marshall-Hall resumed the position in January 1915. He died of appendicitis soon after.
Marshall-Hall was appointed the first Ormond Professor of Music for five-year terms in 1890 and again in 1895. Publication of his verses, denounced as erotic and atheistic, led to the University Councl refusing to renew his appointment in 1900. The Conservatorium of Music he had established in 1895 (the Albert Street Conservatorium, more recently known as the Melba Conservatorium) continued in competition with that established by the University for his successor. He was re-appointed to the Chair in 1914 but died in the following year.
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University of Melbourne