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Complete Piano Music Vol.8 (Preview)

Music by Douglas Lilburn | Piano The Douglas Lilburn Complete Piano Edition was established to accompany Trust Records’ award-winning recorded collection of the same name. The final volume in a series of eight, it comprises Andante Sostenuto (1964), ‘Piece in E major’ (c. 1942), Prelude (1950), ‘A Christmas Offering’ (1944), and Sonatina No.2 (1962).

then, solitude and the

then, solitude and the mystical are no strangers, forming in such music an alliance with the power of transformation. In her copy of the score, pianist Judith Clark marks up bars 91-96 of the first movement as ‘special’, meaning numinous, and Margaret Nielsen remembers ‘my absolute joy when I first heard D’s bird singing the first two bars of his second sonatina here in my own garden, and on many other subsequent occasions – and all coming through a gentle mist.’ 4 I see the limpid moments in Beethoven’s late sonatas to be Lilburn’s guiding star. In November 1965, Barry Margan gave the first performance of the sonatina overseas at a concert in New Zealand House in London. Writing to Lilburn afterwards, Margan related his own response to the music as similar to viewing Japanese prints evoking the natural world – the cherry blossom, the willow, the cresting wave – works that combine lightness of touch with the Zen ideal of oneness of creation. Lilburn replied ‘Not Japanese so much as a simple awareness of the Pacific, of the sounds on these coasts, the iridescence of paua shell I search – I’m glad if something communicates to you.’ 5 Margan also remembers a session with Lilburn in 1968, when they discussed aspects of the sonatina together at the keyboard: After I had played through the work we began by discussing the opening motif, with particular reference to visual and aural stimuli from one’s inner eye and ear – inscapes. Douglas made reference to sunlight flashing on a distant wave or the sun-glint from waka paddles. I talked about the dawn call of a bellbird at a remote beach on Great Barrier Island (again in bar 37). He seemed amenable to that. What we were both trying to express was a sudden manifestation of energy (visual or aural) from an ambient landscape. We then discussed the passage bars 41-53 which to me always suggested a leaf blossom or twig vibrating in the wind. Douglas acknowledged that the passage in thirds (bars 63 following) was a direct reference to the Māori chant ‘Pō! Pō!’ [that Lilburn included in his electroacoustic work Summer Voices (1969)]. Movement two was mainly subject to a discussion of ‘percussive resonance’, particularly with reference to the forte subito passages (bars 18-24, 45-50) – the sounds and rituals of Javanese Gamelan players came to mind; the significance of the allargando, as in the last four measures of the movement, whereby the tempo of the quavers is slowed, with sound becoming more intense; and the theatrical gesture of actually striking the final notes, as purely percussive action at the piano with a long, long pause to follow, allowing the sound to decay almost to nothing (possibly anticipating Lilburn’s electronic effects). Movement three has always seemed to me to be ‘sound for sound’s sake’. My suggestions concerning the translucence and suspended animation of tidal rock pools, of bird calls, and the voices of long-past inhabitants of a lonely land were well received by Douglas. After three attempts in the final six bars, the work resolves into a state of permanent stillness. 6 Although the pianists who know the sonatina so well from the inside talk of its subtleties, beauty, delicacy and meaning, it will always be a work of immediate appeal, a work that is as much a delight to listen to as to play, a work that can be enjoyed as pure music. 4 Email, Margaret Nielsen to Robert Hoskins, 22 May 2018. 5 Letter, Douglas Lilburn to Barry Margan, 23 December 1965. 6 Email, Barry Margan to Rod Biss, 10 June 2018. Robert Hoskins, Palmerston North, 2019 PEL08 – viii

Publisher’s note In the early 1940s Douglas Lilburn established what become lifelong friendships with a number of artists, writers and poets in Christchurch who, along with Lilburn, were instrumental in establishing a genuine vernacular for the arts in New Zealand. Notable among this circle were Lilburn’s close friends and fine artists Rita Angus and Leo Bensemann, both of whom shared an exchange of artistic influence with Lilburn. Care was taken in the Recorded series to present Lilburn among his contemporary artists with each volume featuring a selection of Bensemann’s landscape paintings on the cover along with paintings by Rita Angus inside the full-colour booklets. Similarly, we have chosen to feature Bensemann’s Rain in the Paradise Garden, Takaka on the front cover of our series of publications to provide a sense of unity with the Recorded series. We therefore acknowledge the generous support of the Bensemann Estate. The Publisher also gratefully acknowledges the assistance from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Rod Biss, Guy Donaldson, Claire Harris, Dr Robert Hoskins, the Lilburn Trust, Barry Margan, Massey University, the HRL Morrison Music Trust, and Margaret Nielsen, in the publication of this edition. This eighth volume of the edition has been funded by Creative New Zealand and the HRL Morrison Music Trust. Promethean Editions, Wellington, 2019 PEL08 – ix

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