b. Hartford, Connecticut, 1802
d. Paterson, New Jersey, September 2, 1875
Ureli Corelli Hill had a musical family tree. His grandfather, Frederick Hill, had been a fifer in the Revolutionary army and his father, Uri Keeler Hill, was a music teacher and composer. Ureli’s only sibling, George Handel "Yankee" Hill, was a writer and actor noted for his depiction of Yankee characters. Ureli Corelli Hill alternately served as conductor and violinist with the New York Sacred Music Society between 1828 and 1835. He then spent two years in Germany studying with the composer, conductor, and violinist Louis Spohr. When he returned to New York, Hill became president of the newly founded Philharmonic Society.
The inaugural concert on December 7, 1842 featured Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in its entirety—nineteenth-century concerts often included only one movement of a symphony!—as well as several vocal solos and duets, chamber music by Hummel, the Oberon overture by Weber, and a new overture by Kalliwoda, a mixture typical of concerts at that time. For the Orchestra’s third season, Hill invited both Spohr and Mendelssohn to conduct. Neither could accept, but they sent letters of acknowledgement and were made Honorary Members of the Philharmonic.
Hill spent 1847-50 in Ohio, but returned to New York, becoming a violinist with the Orchestra as well as an officer of its board. In this capacity, he became embroiled in a discussion of the nature of American music carried on in the Musical World, one of the preeminent journals of the day: What role should the Orchestra play to foster and promote American composers such as George Bristow and William Henry Fry? After a series of failed artistic and business ventures, Hill committed suicide in 1875. The Philharmonic Archives acquired his papers in 2002.