Written in response to Bartok’s ‘44 Violin Duos’(1931) which were based on traditional East European melodies. Bartok was concerned that such tunes would become extinct and wanted to preserve them. ‘Birds Reply’ is also intended as an educational resource although the pieces are original compositions with Celtic, English, Balkan and Klezmer influences. On this recording Chris Prosser plays both violin parts.
Composed while I was a student at the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand), these two viola duets originated from my first and second years, when I was studying Performance and Composition. From my third year Performance took over, to the extent that I couldn’t concentrate on Composition, so these duets are remnants of a compositional career that may still be there…waiting?…biding its time? Much of my four years at Otago were spent in Marama Hall, more precisely in the ground floor practice rooms (which were, in fact, underground). Practice Room One, my “favourite” (old piano, no chance of piano students interrupting), was most probably the place where these duets were composed. From what I remember, the Marama was a First World War hospital ship, and in the foyer of the hall a large honours board lists the men and women who served on her.
From Marama’s Hold was premiered by Duo Resonance in April 2001 at the XXIX International Viola Congress, held in Wellington, New Zealand.
In this work, inspired by Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast – ‘home’ during the composer’s six-week residency at Victoria University in 1989 – the relationship between music and environment is particularly strong. The cello’s low repeated D, which opens the piece, is the fundamental pitch heard in the sea and the restless semi-quavers evoke the continuous movement of waves crashing on the Paekakariki shore. Whitehead’s fascination with medieval philosophy and music, incorporating concepts of natural cycles, is reflected both in the title and in the compositional process, where magic squares were used to generate the background structure.
(Programme note by Emma Carle and Jack Body).
“This is a rich evocative piece that is never merely picturesque, as the title might suggest. It has a lyrical complexity reminiscent of Tippett… (it) achieves moments of great beauty.” (Tim Bridgewater, The Dominion).
“The highlight for me was the premiere of Gillian Whitehead’s Moon Tides, and Shoreline. … Perhaps there are marine associations to be heard in the score, but, more importantly, one appreciates the work’s cool and eminently logical form. The various musical motifs are inventive in themselves and intriguingly handled.” (William Dart, Music in New Zealand)
I had conceived the ideas for Moth long before it was written down on paper, having been kept awake on many occasions during the summer nights by the sounds of these fluttering insects. The sounds were fragmented by intervals of long silence, but they came so suddenly even the heaviest of sleepers would be irritated.
Moths are beautiful and eerie nocturnal creatures; they use a celestial navigation system which keeps them flying in a straight line, but however are unable to resist bright objects nearby.
In Moth, by using two violins, I have juxtaposed the serene attraction of the bright light, with the nervous and agitated behaviour of a single moth. Placing the violin parts closely together – both striving for a common goal, yet always in conflict with each other – I have attempted to portray the struggle of the poor creature who is forever trying to reach the moon.
Series of pieces for scordatura violin (scordatura: the tuning of violin strings to non-standard pitches). A variety of effects is achieved by altering the tension of the strings and their harmonic relationship. Each of the 27 different tunings has a distinctive resonance. Inspired by Heinrich Von Biber’s Mystery Sonatas (circa 1685).
Curnow requested this work from Lilburn in 1952 for a poetry reading at Auckland University College. The event took place on the evening of 9 August that year, and involved a substantial amount of poetry (twenty-two poems in total) read by the poets involved. (Actually the works of eight poets were represented: Baxter read “Canto at Twenty-seven” by Louis Johnson).
Lilburn’s music was premiered by Antonia Braidwood (violin) and Donald Bowick (piano). One movement was supposed to precede each reading, providing the audience with the composer’s musical impressions of the work and personality of each poet. In the event, however, the order was reversed, which led to some confusion for the audience and some displeasure for the composer. Typical of New Zealand composition of the time, there was no fee to be had for the work. Lilburn even had to pay his way to Auckland for the rehearsals. On his return to Wellington, Lilburn shelved and forgot about the work. It was not until a chance meeting at his doctor’s surgery in 1988/89 that he was reminded of its existence by Lady Dorothea Turner, who had reviewed the first performance. At that point Lilburn contacted the violinist Dean Major to ask if he would be interested in performing it. After some negotiation the composer also determined that he would write a narration to go along with the music in lieu of the twenty-two poems, and (most surprisingly) volunteered to read this himself.
Salutes to Seven Poets was recorded by Concert FM on 5 September 1989, by Major (violin), with Rae de Lisle (piano). As if to make up for thirty-eight years of neglect of the work, this recording received a Mobil Award in 1990.
This is a set of variations inspired by Copland’s Piano Variations and depicting Auckland rather than New York. Beginning quietly and sombrely, it moves steadily towards a fierce climax before dying away with a hint of better things to come. This work was written for the CANZ ’90 series of concerts held at Auckland University. The composer is pleased with it and the way it was performed though it did not receive a very good review in Canzona; it was considered too restricted in its make-up. The composer is unrepentant.