LD Austin became a household name in New Zealand through hundreds of letters to the editors of the daily papers — and as an outspoken advocate of classical values as a controversial music columnist for Dunedin’s Evening Star. But his earlier decades as an accompanist for silent movies in Sydney, Brisbane, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington, especially with a renowned orchestra in the De Luxe (now Embassy) Theatre in Courtenay Place, also provide fascinating detail and entertaining anecdotes from the era.
LDA’s reminiscences reach to the London of his youth, when he heard many of the great performers and events of late 19th-century music — Richard Strauss and Tchaikovsky, Paderewski and Pablo de Sarasate, Clara Schumann and Edvard Grieg, Dohnányi and Rachmaninov, and many others. His theatre experiences from that time were equally rich in legendary names and great occasions.
LDA’s memoir has hitherto been unpublished. Musicologist Allan Thomas edited it and provided an introduction, but ill health prevented him from seeing the book through to publication. After his death in 2010 his family has ensured the manuscript wasn’t lost for a second time.