Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Drysdale Overture (1940)
A Song of Islands (1946)
Suite for Orchestra (1955)
A Birthday Offering (1956)
Prodigal Country
David Griffiths (bar)
Orpheus Choir of Wellington
New Zealand SO/John Hopkins; Charles Groves (Prodigal)
rec Wellington TH: Nov 1982-June 1987
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This disc falls inevitably to be compared with Continuum CCD1076 which has the same programme except that in place of Prodigal Country there is the Festival Overture and the conductor is Sir William Southgate. The Continuum venue is Lower Hutt Town Hall, whereas Kiwi are in Wellington Town Hall.

Drysdale is the name of the outland sheep station on the North Island of New Zealand where Lilburn spent his childhood. The Drysdale overture was written in 1937 but its first public performance only took place in 1986. The voice of Vaughan Williams from the Fifth Symphony is far more to the fore than that of Sibelius. The work yearns nostalgically suggesting lonely childhood among the high pastures. On top of this there is the vigour of activity of a busy farming community. This would go well in company with Maurice Johnstone's Tarn Howes. Southgate's more recent recording is a shade more immediate and is recent compared with the 1980s Kiwi tapes. Southgate also has a crisper, more galvanising approach to the quicker music though he misses Hopkins' way with nostalgia.

A Song of Islands (originally A Song of the Antipodes) is a work of slow blooming majesty whose warmth is indebted, without any shadow of doubt, to Sibelius's Fourth Symphony. Southgate's 16.15 compares with Hopkins' 14.05. There is little to choose between the two but Hopkins has greater momentum.

The five movement Suite (what a pity Lilburn did not come up with a more alluring title) is 14.29 on Kiwi and 16.00 on Continuum. Hopkins captures the Stravinskian snarl of the Allegro but Southgate is even quicker. The Allegretto is an Hispanic hoe-down in tribute, undeclared, to Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole. The Andante is weightier in Southgate's hands and benefits from this. Playing a good 1.15 longer than Hopkins version. in the bubbling moderato and effervescent Copland and Berners.

A Birthday Offering, a concertante piece, was written in 1956 for the tenth birthday of the orchestra we now know as the NZSO. Southgate takes a full minute longer than Hopkins. More than a decade on from Aotearoa Lilburn is now more firmly under Tippett's shade but still with Stravinskian acerbities. This is a step onwards towards the avant-garde though softened by the presence of sounds that could have drifted in from a Malcolm Arnold symphony. Along the way we are treated to a quote (the quote, really) from Beethoven 5.

Prodigal Country is the longest work on the disc at 17.45. It is a setting of words by NZ poets Allen Curnow and Robin Hyde alongside Whitman's 'Song of Myself'. Full texts are printed in the booklet. From a few months after the start of the Second World War it is a return to the ambience of Vaughan Williams (Whitman was much favoured by VW) and Sibelius (all those intense high violin tremolandi). Groves and his forces plunge into the work with verve and fervour. Those shuddering vibratos prefigure Finzi's Cello Concerto.

Marginally to be preferred over Continuum's CCD 1077. While the strongest Lilburn is to be found in the three symphonies and the piano music this is a meritorious collection for the Lilburn listener who wonders what lies in the further recesses. By no means a barrel-scraping exercise and much pleasure is to be had by those in sympathy with the works of Sibelius and RVW from Drysdale, Song of Islands, Birthday Offering and Prodigal Country. Don't miss however the Aotearoa Overture on KIWI PACIFIC CD-SLD-99.

Rob Barnett

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

NOTE: I see that the Kiwi Pacific's New Zealand Composer Edition, of which this is part, also includes single composer CDs for David Farquhar (SLD-88), Edwin Carr (SLD-101) and Ashley Heenan (SLD-102). Three anthology collections should also be noted. Music for Piano (Carr, Farquhar, Tremain, Whitehead, McLeod, Rimmer, Body) SLD-103; String Orchestra (Carr, Watson, J Ritchie, Tremain, Rimmer, Moon) SLD-104; Brass and woodwind (Farquhar, Lilburn, Wilson, Rimmer) SLD-105.

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