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Piano Sonatas (Preview)

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by Douglas Lilburn | Piano

INTRODUCTION DOUGLAS

INTRODUCTION DOUGLAS LILBURN BIOGRAPHY Douglas Lilburn (1915–2001) grew up on ‘Drysdale’, a hill–country farm bordering the mountainous region at the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. He often described his boyhood home as ‘paradise’ and his first major orchestral work, Drysdale Overture (1937), written while a student under the aegis of Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London, conjures up the hills, bush and stream as primal sites of imaginative wonder. Recalling the impression of Drysdale Overture, Lilburn wrote: ‘I’m left with that lovely Mark Twain image of Jim and Huckleberry drifting their barge down that great river, looking up at the stars and wondering “whether they was made, or only just happened.”’ At this time Lilburn wrote his Festival Overture and the Sonata 1939, together with other works that expressed national pride: a cantata entitled Prodigal Country (1939), and the Aotearoa Overture (1940), which has become a New Zealand classic. Although these works were written in his student years, their content, style and general confidence reveal Lilburn as an achieved artist. Returning to Christchurch, Lilburn banded together with an innovative group of painters, poets and publishers who were to prove influential. Settings of Allen Curnow and Denis Glover, for instance, resulted in two iconic works: Landfall in Unknown Seas (1942), a voyage of spiritual discovery for narrator and string orchestra, and the song cycle Sings Harry (1953), the musings of a middle-aged bachelor who, returning to the mountains where he grew up, begins to reassess and evaluate the course his life has taken. Two more works, an orchestral tone poem A Song of Islands (1946) and the Chaconne (1946), find their parallel in the regional paintings of Rita Angus. In 1947 Lilburn joined the staff at Victoria University College in Wellington and completed several works that received high critical acclaim, including two symphonies, two piano sonatas, and the Alistair Campbell song cycle Elegy (1951) – a vision of the titanic indifference of nature. Lilburn composed the Symphony No.3 (1961), along with Sonatina No.2 (1962) and Nine Short Pieces for Piano (1965–66), in response to a stimulating period of sabbatical leave. Masterpieces of concentrated form, these works explore the boundaries of his instrumental writing. From this point until his retirement, Lilburn chose to take on the new territory of electroacoustic composition. Lilburn’s final years were spent quietly at home in Thorndon, Wellington, tending to his garden and, until the onset of arthritis, playing his beloved August Förster piano. He received the Order of New Zealand in 1988. PEL11 – iv

COLLECTIONS A New Zealand Christmas (PEL10) These four collections of delightfully fresh Christmas pieces were Douglas Lilburn’s lighthearted musical gift to Lawrence Baigent and Leo Bensemann, both proficient pianists; together they give us an endearing glimpse of the composer during the 1940s war years. For a more detailed account of each volume, including a description of the source material and a detailed editorial commentary, see volumes 4, 6, 7 and 8 of the Douglas Lilburn Complete Piano Edition. Preludes (PEL13) This gathering of shorter pieces by Douglas Lilburn includes works that are among his most popular. Clear-eyed and felicitous, they are nevertheless shot through with something transcendental — a strange and beautiful excitement. For a more detailed account of these works, including a description of the source material and a detailed editorial commentary, see the parent volumes of the Douglas Lilburn Complete Piano Edition. Sonatas (PEL11) The four sonatas contained in this volume display an expansiveness of feeling that is an expression of Lilburn’s dedication to the open spaces of his homeland whilst relishing the received sonata structures of the great classical masters. The first two express the exuberance of his early musical language while the later ones reveal Lilburn in full possession of the genius and creativity that made him New Zealand’s pre-eminent composer of the twentieth century For a more detailed account of the genesis and reception of these works, a description of the preserved source material and a detailed editorial commentary, see volumes 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the Douglas Lilburn Complete Piano Edition. Sonatinas (PEL12) In these two sonatinas, Douglas Lilburn achieves his mastery of early and late style, in each case a style he handles with magical suppleness. For a more detailed account of the genesis and reception of these works, a description of the preserved source material and a detailed editorial commentary, see the volumes 4 and 8 of the Douglas Lilburn Complete Piano Music Edition. PEL11 – v

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Piano Piano Sonatas Douglas Lilburn Sonata Lilburn