MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus


Support us financially by purchasing this from
Douglas LILBURN (1915-2001)
Chamber Works
String Quartet in E minor (1946) [17.14]
Duos for 2 Violins (1954) [19.23]
String Trio (1945) [16.35]
Canzonettas for Violin and Viola (1942/43/58) [8.46]
Phantasy for String Quartet (1939) [10.43]
New Zealand String Quartet (Helene Pohl (violin 1), Douglas Beilman (violin 2), Gillian Ansell (viola), Rolf Gjelsten (cello))
rec. St. Anne’s Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 26-28 July 2012
NAXOS 8.573079 [72.49]

2 November 2015 will mark the exact centenary date of the birth of New Zealand’s best known composer, Douglas Lilburn. Perhaps, like me, you thought of him mainly as a composer of orchestral works. I think especially of the three Symphonies which I purchased twenty years ago on the Continuum label (CCD1069) but which Naxos have also recorded (8.555862). Then again there are orchestral works like A Song of Islands and the overture Aotearoa (Naxos 8.557697, Kiwi Pacific CD-SLD-99 and Continuum CCD1076). I have even seen and played some of the piano music (review), which my friend Margaret Lyon was performing back in the 1990s but never the chamber music.

I have heard Douglas Lilburn’s symphonies described as being like an ‘Antipodean Sibelius’ and even with the early String Quartet in E minor, which opens the programme, there is a sense of Nordic spaciousness. That out-of-doors feel is encapsulated in the sonata-form first movement, which the annotator Robert Hoskins writes quite romantically about concerning the motion of a gliding hawk. I can’t see that myself but the inner movement is certainly a “folk-dance” with its animated rhythms, The expansive finale even had moments to remind me of Nielsen. A rhapsodic work then and one that is definitely worth getting to know.

Composing Duos for two violins or any duos for that matter is not only a test of a composer’s technique but also of their imagination. To write a set of six which are not only personal and original but have something deeper to say is a considerable achievement. True, as Hoskins says, there are influences, Bartók in No. 4, Copland in No. 2 which is a sort of hoe-down but most interesting is the composer’s own recollections of an idyllic childhood amidst the natural landscape of the remote hill country of New Zealand’s north island. He could sit in the trees “and sing a wordless song” to the heavens. It’s no surprise then that this music sings, especially the more reflective numbers 3 and 5. I wonder what his teacher at the Royal College, who was no less than RVW, made of it. The clever use of modality and the free-wheeling rhythms certainly would have appealed.

By the age of thirty Lilburn was still looking for a decisive language of his own and in the String Trio he practically finds it through an unexpected source - Franz Schubert whose piano music had much affected him several years before. The influence is not obvious but scratch the surface and you can discern a strong leaning towards another wide-ranging, singing melody. This is evident especially in the middle movement, marked Allegretto. There is much rhythmic repetition to create development and those shimmering opening textures. Yet that airy, breezy elegance of the orchestral works is also audible.

The Canzonettas for Violin and Viola are charming miniatures and partially written originally as incidental music for a production of Hamlet. The booklet notes describe them therefore as quasi-Elizabethan. They are modal certainly and have simple, direct melodies but not echt-Morley. In fact the third one is melancholic and harmonically quite searching.

The last work on this disc is the earliest. The Phantasy form was revived in the 1930s due to the popular Cobbett Prize. This attracted many entries from established figures and also from young up and coming composers. Lilburn was just a student but he came up with the idea of basing his Phantasy for String Quartet on the beautiful Tudor melody ‘Westron Winde’ or ‘Western Wind when will you blow’. This tune is also used as the basis for masses by Tye, Taverner and others. Tempo-wise it falls into a neatly contrasted slow-fast-slow-fast-slow category but it is an appropriately melancholic piece. It was first performed by students at the Royal College and is well worth its place in the repertoire.

I should also mention that there is a full price Atoll CD which includes three of the Lilburn works recorded on this disc. This has been reviewed by Steve Arloff.

This is an attractive disc which throws further light onto a really interesting and significant figure of twentieth century music but one who has still to emerge from the shadows. Not to be overlooked.

Gary Higginson
Previous review: Nick Barnard