• 1869 — 1960
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A generation older than Percy Grainger, Arthur Hill was the first classical composer of reputation to hail from the continent of Australia; born in Melbourne, Hill was raised in New Zealand and considered himself a native. In 1887, Hill traveled to Germany to study at the Leipzig Conservatory, and in his capacity as second violinist at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, had direct contact with nearly every one of the major figures in Western romanticism: Brahms, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, and Richard Strauss among them. After earning the Helbig award for composition, Hill returned to New Zealand in 1891 and settled in Wellington, shuttling back and forth from New Zealand and Australia, though in 1911 he relocated to Sydney where he would spend the remainder of his long life. Hill was a member of the Austral String Quartet and worked to build both orchestras and opera companies in Australia and New Zealand alike; in 1916 he was one of the founders of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. Hill retired from this position in 1937 to concentrate on composing and is said to have produced more than 2,000 compositions, mostly in manuscript; these include 8 operas, 12 symphonies, and 17 string quartets. Hill was made an Officer of the O.B.E. in 1953 and died at age 91, survived by his wife, Mirrie Hill, also a composer. Hill also had a great interest in Maori culture and conducted some of the first academic level research in this area, helping found an institute in Rotorua for Maori studies.
Hill's musical style was strongly conditioned by his early experiences in Germany, and while it is formally and technically strong, it is a little emotionally distanced; late in his career he expanded his harmonic vocabulary to good effect. Despite his large output and its range, Hill is primarily known for one song, "Arapeta Hira," a recasting of a traditional Maori melody.