Four Echoes for solo ‘cello had been taking shape slowly when news came of Douglas Lilburn’s death. For me this had many personal associations; the first New Zealand music I heard was by Douglas Lilburn, and through years at Victoria University and after I came to know him as teacher and supportive professional colleague. His music has always held a special power for me, and as I wrote musical shadows appeared in the work, particularly in the Lament which is specifically in his memory. Early in 2007 NZSO violist Peter Barber approached me about the possibility of performing the work on viola, and I was delighted to consider this and review the work for this purpose.
In this work, the first movement uses two Basque melodies (one of which is a Basque lullaby whose text contains only Basque nonsense words) for the first group and a “Bulgarianized” version of a Hungarian folk melody for the second in this short sonata form. The second movement is an arrangement of a 14th century melody by Guillaume de Machault, and the last owes something to Scandinavian folk music (the obscure title refers to a favorite Finnish dill-infused salad dressing that I like to make on occasion).
Music for Viola and Piano is dedicated to Rudolf Haken, Rachel Jensen, and my counterpoint teacher, Jack Melby.
In writing this piece I was influenced by the concept of differing perspectives of time and also by Berio’s Sequenzas. I have tried to incorporate his idea of creating a polyphonic type of listening through the use of contrasting motifs, textures and tempi. The title for the work came during the writing process and led the piece to be slightly programmatic. According to Maori legend, Pania is a sea-goddess who ventured onto land only at night. There she met a man who later became her husband and together the couple bore a son. Wishing his family wouldn’t return to the sea with every sunrise, the husband cast a spell on the pair. The spell however, had the opposite effect. Pania and the boy returned to the sea forever where she became a reef, lying with her arms outstretched towards her husband.