WORKS: Symphony No.1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: New Zealand SO/James Judd
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555862
Douglas Lilburn, who died last year, was one of the very few New Zealand composers who made any kind of name for themselves in the northern hemisphere. It isn’t hard to spot influences in Lilburn’s music: Sibelius and Vaughan Williams (Lilburn’s teacher) are strong presences. He also had something of Sibelius’s concision, which is no bad thing either. At times the sense of wide-open space and sharp, fresh air recalls Copland, as does the cut of some of the themes. But this is not derivative music: there’s an authentic voice here. Lilburn thought naturally in symphonic terms, and the vitality of the material, especially in the First Symphony, ought to make him attractive to anyone who values the symphonies of the above-named composers and who likes exploring interesting byways.
James Judd and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra never sound less than completely at home in the first two symphonies, and the recordings serve them well. The performance of the less optimistic, more emotionally complicated Third Symphony is harder to gauge; it’s clearly the kind of piece that needs – and deserves – more than one hearing. But here, too, there are phrases, colours and harmonies that lodge in the memory. Well worth hearing. Stephen Johnson