Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Southgate and Lilburn


Back when I was a youth, I made the acquaintance of Bill Southgate, through some musical things we were both doing at that time. And for a brief period I was a postie in tandem with his brother, whose name suddenly escapes me. He wrote poetry, some of which was already published at that time.
When my wife and I came back to NZ in 1974, Bill and his wife were on the same plane coming into Dunedin. We briefly renewed acquaintance while my wife listened with some astonishment to the racing commentary going on at the airport: the speed-speech of the racing commentator was vastly different to the keep-it-cool approach British commentators took.
Bill has gone on to become Sir William Southgate, one of New Zealand's best conductors, and also a composer of some note. (Well, a lot of notes, actually: he's written a variety of symphonic works, amongst other things.)
There's an article about him and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in the latest NZ Listener, which I found interesting because at one point he notes: 'I have clear short-term ideas on repertoire. A priority would be consolidating New Zealand's symphonic classics such as all three of Lilburn's, Carr's four, Farquhar's three, and Pruden. These four are our foundation composers. '
My ongoing to struggle to accept Lilburn as one of New Zealand's great composers, let alone a foundation one has been written about a number of times in this blog. But, believe it or not, I try to keep an open mind. I've been 'converted' to composers before whom I wasn't much impressed with. Lilburn is having a bit of struggle convincing me that he's one of those I should change my mind about, however.
Part of what prompted this post was that I just came across a copy of some occasional piano pieces by Lilburn, which I've had on my shelves for a long time, and occasionally play (as one would). Bill's mention of the three symphonies prompts me to check them out again at the library; one of them I do find quite appealing - probably the first. Maybe Lilburn and I will eventually become friends....maybe!
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