Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Douglas LILBURN (1915-)
Aotearoa Overture (1940)
Allegro for Strings (1942)
Concert Overture in D (1942)
Introduction and Allegro for Strings (1942)
Four Canzonas (1943-80)
Diversions for Strings (1947)
Festival Overture (1939)
New Zealand SO/John Hopkins (Aotearoa; Festival)
Ithaca College Festival Orchestra/Grant Cooper
rec Wellington TH: Aug 1968 (Aotearoa); Oct 1985 (Festival)
rec live Ithaca College, NY, USA, Sept 1996
Crotchet    Amazon UK    Amazon US

Aotearoa first burst onto the UK record market as long ago as the late 1960s. This was on a cheap Oryx LP (remember those text-heavy full page adverts in Gramophone?) with the Lilburn Second Symphony (? see footnote) and Ashley Heenan's Symphony. It is a hallmark work for Lilburn having been written in London during his student days at the RCM.

Kiwi Pacific issued a disc (CD-SLD-90) of all three Lilburn symphonies as conducted by Hopkins and Heenan. There was no room for Aotearoa so it finds itself as the outer leaf of a 'sandwich' around some quite recent recordings from Ithaca College. The Ithaca tapes are, largely, of Lilburn's music for strings.

The Overture is candidly, even proudly, Sibelian. The material and the method bears closest resemblance to the lucidly limned string and wind figures from the Finn's Sixth Symphony. It is irresistible and for all its monothematicism is neatly put together; a fit travelling companion for Moeran's Overture to a Masque and Copland's Outdoor Overture. The 1968 recording stands up very well. The gravely-toned command of the brass and the pert woodwind playing stand out. There is an alternative, more modern, recording on Continuum (mixed recital of music by NZ composers) but I have not heard that.

The rippling taut rhythmic theme that lights up the Aotearoa Overture (by the way Aotearoa means 'land of the long white cloud' - the Maori name for New Zealand) also smiles out from the pages of the Allegro and Concert Overture amid music that recalls his teacher Vaughan Williams (especially the Concerto Grosso and the Partita). The Overture's Handelian pride blends in with string writing that chases Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra.

Introduction and Allegro is sturdy, reflective, self-doubting, not gloomy, multi-layered in expression. There is no obvious homage to the Elgar work. The writing is at the transition between the strings in Finzi's clarinet concerto, early Tippett and the weight of William Schuman's adagios.

The pulse-slowing Four Canzonas (separately tracked) are 1980 recyclings of incidental music written for the theatre and radio in the 1940s and 1950s. The first (from Hamlet) an Elizabethan pavane - very lyrical over a pizzicato line, elements of which carry over into Canzona 2 (Willow Song) with its roots struck deep into Rubbra and Finzi soil as are the last two movements. After all this reflection the Diversions with their devil-may-care Wirén spirit are very welcome. The Canzonas though perfectly sustained suffer through lack of mood contrast.

The Festival Overture's nervy ostinati lean to Sibelius's Third Symphony this time but the rictus of Walton's First Symphony is an unmistakably imperious influence. Did I also detect the goose-shiver of an East Anglian squall five years before the Grimes premiere?

Helpful notes from William Dart.

A very fine disc with music by a freshly inspired lyrico-dramatic talent whose music deserves to travel.

Rob Barnett

Footnote:  It was actually the third symphony : LILBURN Aotearoa Overture, Symphony 3 FARQUHAR Symphony NZRO Matteucci ORYX1900 [LM]

A very fine disc with music by a freshly inspired lyrico-dramatic talent whose music deserves to travel.

Order details

Kiwi Pacific Records International Ltd

PO Box 826
phone: (644) 389 6394
fax: (644) 389 6521

UK distributors will usually be happy to help with orders:-

Available in the UK from Seaford Music.

phone +44 (0) 1323 732553
fax +44 (0) 1323 417455

24 Pevensey Road
East Sussex BN21 3HP

United Kingdom

Centre for NZ Music (trading as SOUNZ)
PO Box 10042
Wellington, NZ
Street address: Level 1, 39 Cambridge Terrace
Phone: (64 4) 801 8602
Fax: (64 4) 801 8604

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