G W L Marshall-Hall, ‘How Can I Live’ from Stella

For voice and full orchestra or piano  Melbourne, 1909-10
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA040
ISBN 978-0-9925673-9-2 / ISMN 979-0-9009655-9-2

Download

 Marshall-Hall Stella How can I Live VS_0001  MDA034 pic1 Marshall-Hall Stella How can I Live_0007

G W L Marshall-Hall was born in Hyde Park, London in 1862 and died in Melbourne on 18 July 1915. Born into a medical family, Marshall-Hall studied from the age of sixteen at Kings College, London, and then in Montreux in Switzerland. From 1880 he studied in Berlin, before returning to London in 1882 to further study at the Royal College of Music. He was beginning to make a mark for himself as a composer in England, but in 1887 an advertisement appeared for the position of the inaugural Ormond Professor of Music at The University of Melbourne. His application for the position was successful, and he arrived in Melbourne in January 1891 to take up the post. He quickly established a reputation for bohemianism, as a musician who could inspire both students and staff, and as a conductor. Marshall-Hall’s programming in concerts was adventurous and demanding, and his output as a composer ranged from two operas to two symphonies, several orchestral tone poems, chamber works and many songs.

MDA034 pic2His success was tempered by the publication of a series of provocative poems under the title of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which inflamed the Anglican establishment. Although not devoid of defenders, Marshall-Hall’s tenure as professor was not renewed in 1900. But after a long period of controversy, he was eventually re-appointed as Ormond Professor in July 1914, only one year before his untimely death in 1915.

Marshall-Hall started work composing his opera Stella over a ten week period from September 1909 until 4 February 1910, and he completed the orchestration of the work by 12 May of the same year. It is an opera set in Melbourne, and could be best described as Australian verismo but with a post Wagnerian influence. The work is a very dramatic one, and it contains very direct references to the cabals and narrow personalities that beset Marshall-Hall during his time as Ormond Professor and in the following years, by the inclusion of the singing of the Committee of the Social Purity Society. This aria is sung in deep despair in the final scene, before the heroine Stella commits suicide.