Douglas LILBURN (1915-2001)
Violin Sonata (1950) [14:30]
Allegro Concertante (1944 rev 1945) [14:22]
Violin Sonata in E flat (1943 rev 1984) [24:10]
Violin Sonata in C (1943 ed 1983, rev 1986) [25:21]
Justine Cormack (violin)
Michael Houstoun (piano)
rec. 2012, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato, New Zealand
ATOLL ACD913 [78:52]

The disc advertises Douglas Lilburn’s ‘duos’ for violin and piano because there are three sonatas and an Allegro Concertante. They date from 1943-50 – the notes and track details actually differ by a year with a claimed date of 1942 for the earliest of the sonatas - though the earliest sonatas were revised in the mid-1980s. The only work to have been published is the 1950 Sonata.

The New Zealander’s studies with Vaughan Williams inform much of the music The Sonata in E flat is bright, optimistic and has a lingering, singing, thoughtful B section. Amidst the lyric reserve of the central movement there are tauter, though hardly astringent moments, whilst the finale is spacious, playful, and rather delightfully terpsichorean. Lilburn’s studies with VW had ended in 1939 and he was back in Christchurch by then and as he was a pianist, he sought out various string players. One of them was Maurice Clare, a very fine player by all accounts, who premiered the Sonata in C which is cast in four movements. There are playful exchanges between the two instruments, some folksy elements, and a lively scherzo before the rather hymnal slow movement and a finale that balances lyric and tensile maters nicely. He was to follow the sonatas with the Allegro Concertante. The imposing title announces a broad quarter-of-an-hour work with a typically demanding Lilburnian piano part and plenty of rewarding melodic writing for the violin. There’s a witty cadential passage too and a strong degree of panache in the conclusion. There was a five or six year gap until the Sonata of 1950, a single-movement work whose long-breathed lyricism, fresh singing lines and folk hues, grant it a pleasing distinction. Material is well distributed, in fact, between violin and piano, and Lilburn has the courage to end quietly. Presumably he had Clare still in mind, though the notes, which are enthusiastic, don’t delve into too much detail.

This is another valuable disc that honours Lilburn by performing his music with unselfconscious generosity. Justine Cormack and Michael Houstoun are admirable advocates. The recording is generally well-judged though there are times when the piano spectrum can be somewhat harsh. It does little to dampen pleasure in the performances.

Jonathan Woolf
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