Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

(b. 1915)
Festival Overture (1940) 8.26
A Song of Islands (1946) 16.15
Suite for Orchestra (1955) 16.00
A Birthday Offering (1955) 12.15
Drysdale Overture (1937) 9.37
New Zealand SO/Sir William Southgate
rec 1996? Lower Hutt Town Hall, NZ
CONTINUUM CCD 1076  [62.33]
 Amazon UK    

Lilburn is of Scottish-English descent. He was brought up in a farming family. They farmed the Drysdale Station in Upper Turakania, New Zealand. In this sense we must not be surprised to encounter a Nordic pastoral accent in much of the music although this paled as his music moves through the 1950s.

He was taught at Canterbury University to a regime frankly rooted in the language and methods of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Later he discovered Sibelius whose music patently held him in an enchanted grip. This Finnish 'tang' is very well to the fore in the A Song of Islands (1946). In this the tension and terse turbulence of Sibelius's Fourth Symphony wrestles with a lyricism won from the Sibelius Third Symphony and from it emerges a majesty that is all Lilburn's. In this one can easily perceive an axis between composers such as Roy Harris, Arthur Butterworth (don't miss his First Symphony on ClassicO) and John Veale's First Symphony and Panorama (both awaiting premiere recordings). A sense of struggle and stress links this work with the William Alwyn Third and Fourth Symphonies. The strings are fleet of foot and emotionally searching, the woodwind singing while the brass are broad and bardic.

Southgate's recording of the Drysdale is more recent than the similar disc on Kiwi Pacific being a shade more immediate. Southgate has a crisper, approach to the quicker music though he misses Hopkins' way with nostalgia. The five movement Suite (surely Lilburn's imagination stretched further than this title) is 14.29 on Kiwi and 16.00 here. Hopkins captures the Stravinskian snarl of the Allegro but Southgate is even quicker. The Allegretto is an hispanic feria. The Andante is weightier in Southgate's hands. A Birthday Offering is a miniature concerto for orchestra written for the tenth birthday of NZSO. Southgate takes a full minute longer than Hopkins on Kiwi. More than a decade on from Aotearoa Lilburn blends Tippett with Stravinskian asperity.

A nice disc well worth picking up if you encounter it in a CD shop. It is, though, shorter in playing time than the very similarly programmed Kiwi Pacific disc.

Rob Barnett


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In 1997 Charles Eggen wrote:

Douglas Lilburn, New Zealand's premier composer, turns 82 on 2 November 1997. Keeping to himself for the most part during the past decade, he continues to maintain a home in Wellington. Those that wish to send him a birthday card should send it to him at: 22 Ascot Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand. He has reduced his correspondence to essentials and he will therefore probably not reply to your card. But know that he appreciates knowing that there are those of us who do enjoy his contributions to music.

I've been listening to his music for over 20 years and it's great stuff - too bad so little of it has found its way to CD - but to anyone who doesn't know Lilburn, the Continuum CD of his three symphonies should appeal to anyone who enjoys the music of Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, and Nielsen - Lilburn shows their influence, but he has a distinct style of his own,

Lilburn information stored at composers database at:

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