Lilburn: A Song of Islands; Forest; A Birthday Offering; Drysdale Overture; Festival Overture

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lilburn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Lilburn
WORKS: A Song of Islands; Forest; A Birthday Offering; Drysdale Overture; Festival Overture
PERFORMER: New Zealand SO/ James Judd
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557697
It’s good to see Naxos following

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up the success of their Lilburn

symphonies disc with this fine

collection of his shorter orchestral

works. As with the first two

symphonies, it isn’t hard to find

stylistic affinities with Lilburn’s

teacher Vaughan Williams,

Copland and particularly Sibelius

– the early Forest tone poem sounds

at times like a direct tribute to the

Finnish master. But it isn’t just that

Lilburn digests these influences

thoroughly in his best works; he

has recognisable and very likeable

fingerprints of his own, not to

mention a thoroughly personal way

of following a symphonic argument

to its natural (though rarely entirely

predictable) conclusion, as he does

magnificently in the Aotearoa and

Drysdale overtures. And there are

even times when Lilburn looks

ahead: the floating, swooning modal

string polyphony in A Birthday

Overture sounds strikingly like

a prophecy of James MacMillan

– three years before MacMillan’s

birth. An unpretentious but original

voice, natural lyricism, a language

that savours of fresh air, exhilarating

heights and awe-inspiring lonely

spaces – it’s an appealing recipe, and

the New Zealand Orchestra and

James Judd bring it off with ripe

understanding and audible affection.

Good recordings too: atmospheric

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enough, but with balancing clarity.