About this Recording
8.557244 - GRAINGER / LILBURN: Colonial Diversions (Tintner Edition 12)
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TINTNER MEMORIAL EDITION • VOLUME 12

TINTNER MEMORIAL EDITION • VOLUME 12

Percy Grainger: Rustic Dance • Eastern Intermezzo • Colonial Song

               Gay But Wistful • The Gum-suckers’ March

Douglas Lilburn: Diversions for Strings

George Dreyfus: Serenade for Small Orchestra

Arthur Benjamin: North American Square Dance

Jean Coulthard: Excursion Ballet Suite

Performances recorded 6th–7th May 1988

 

Percy Grainger (1892-1961) was a great eccentric. He was a practitioner of flagellation (his whips are discreetly displayed in the Grainger Museum in his native Melbourne), he believed in Nordic Supremacy, and was suspected of having an incestuous relationship with his domineering, syphilitic mother. None of this, however, prevented his becoming one of the leading concert pianists of his time, admired and befriended by both Grieg and Delius. He was a writer, editor, pedagogue, a tireless collector of folksongs, and a talented composer of light music. In his native country he is revered (and somewhat overrated) as Australia’s only world-famous composer before the present generation.

 

Grainger was at his best as a miniaturist. The works on this recording are good examples: charming tunes, masterfully orchestrated. Though Grainger hardly saw Australia again after he left at nineteen, the country often appears in his music. The Gum-suckers’ March refers to people from the state of Victoria, a nickname for those who chew eucalyptus (gum) leaves on a hot day for their refreshing volatile oils. Eastern Intermezzo reminisces about Grainger’s childhood visits to Melbourne’s Chinatown. The Colonial Song is a patriotic post-Federation (1901) piece, somewhat burdened with an overblown God-and-King treatment but superbly crafted. It is this quality, and Grainger’s ability to turn a catchy tune that has allowed his somewhat parlour-style music to withstand the test of time.

 

Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001) is unquestionably New Zealand’s most important composer, and in Georg Tintner’s opinion, the finest from either country. A farmer’s son, he was talented in both music and literature, but decided for music in 1936 when Grainger awarded him the Grainger Prize for one of his compositions. He went to London in 1937 and studied with Vaughan Williams. A fervent New Zealander, he returned in 1940, and eventually became Professor of Music at Wellington’s Victoria University.

 

Lilburn’s music, which includes three symphonies, shows the influence of Vaughan Williams and to a lesser extent Sibelius, but it is not at all derivative. The voice is uniquely Lilburn’s; it speaks movingly of the New Zealand landscape, beautiful and austere. Diversions for Strings was written in 1947 for the Australasian tour of the Boyd Neel Orchestra. Its five short movements are direct in style and form, and with alternating moods the composer describes respectively as “Light, nostalgic, satirical, sentimental, and tossed-off.” The fourth movement description, however, should be taken to mean full of sentiment, for it is a profound and beautiful movement not in any way superficial.

 

George Dreyfus was born in Wuppertal, Germany, in 1928 and went to Australia as a refugee in 1939 – young enough to have absorbed some of the laconic Australian character. It may be the comfortable blending of two such disparate cultures that has made Dreyfus such a successful composer of everything from opera and symphony to film music and advertising jingles. He is also one of the few contemporary composers to express a genuine sense of humour in his music.

 

Dreyfus had in fact no formal training as a composer, though he was a professional bassoonist until 1965. The Serenade for Small Orchestra, originally titled Music for Music Camp, was written in 1967 for the various annual music camps in Australia. It was Dreyfus’s first orchestral work, but it already displays a complete command of orchestration and the usual fine wit. Dreyfus himself describes the music as “of instant appeal, lighthearted and melodious, something that youngsters enjoy rehearsing and performing.”

 

Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960) grew up in Australia but, like Grainger, spent most of his career abroad as a concert pianist, composer and conductor. Like Dreyfus he wrote all types of music from opera to film scores; his best-known work is the Jamaican Rumba. All of his music is colourful and beautifully crafted, as North American Square Dance shows, with its skilful use of fiddle tunes from the United States and Canada.

 

Benjamin lived mostly in England, but he spent the war years on the west coast of Canada, where in 1938 he met the young Vancouver composer Jean Coulthard (1908-2000). Though Coulthard had, like Lilburn, studied with the great symphonist Vaughan Williams, she had until then only written for voice and piano. Coulthard says, “I really feel indebted to Benjamin for starting me off on my ‘orchestral career’ ... He encouraged one to write in one’s own way, of course.” Many of Coulthard’s works, including her Excursion Ballet Suite, were premiered in Vancouver at Benjamin’s highly successful Prom Concerts, with Benjamin himself conducting.

 

Coulthard describes the suite as being inspired by “... a joyous youthful experience! ... a scene so very familiar to Western Canadians before the war years when the ferry boats called at all the vacation islands in the Gulf of Georgia.”

 

 

Georg Tintner

 

Georg Tintner was born in Vienna in 1917. He began studying piano at the age of six and to compose soon after. From nine to thirteen he was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir, where he also conducted the choir in performances of his own compositions. At thirteen he entered the Vienna State Academy as a composition prodigy, studying composition with Josef Marx and conducting with Felix Weingartner. At eighteen he was the conductor of a training choir of the Vienna Boys Choir, and trained the choir for a performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with Bruno Walter in 1936. His compositions were being performed in concert and broadcast by Austrian Radio, and at nineteen he became assistant conductor at the Vienna Volksoper.

 

In 1938 he fled the Nazis, spending a year in England before emigrating to New Zealand. For several years he ran a poultry farm – as a result of which he became a total vegetarian – before becoming Music Director of the Auckland String Players and Auckland Choral Society in 1947. He was also an avowed socialist and pacifist, and as such he rode a bicycle as “a symbol of the ultimate in harmlessness”.

 

In 1954 he went to Australia as Resident Conductor of the National Opera and then the Elizabethan Opera. In the following years he toured Australia widely and pioneered television opera with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In 1964 he was Music Director of the New Zealand Opera, and in 1966-67 was Music Director of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra. Although offered an extended contract, Tintner left for political reasons. He went to London and Sadler’s Wells (English National Opera) for three years, with guest appearances with the London Mozart Players, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia and the London Symphony Orchestra for the BBC.

 

He returned to Australia in 1970 as Music Director of the West Australian Opera Company. In 1971 he was invited as Music Director of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, a visit so successful that it was repeated seven times. Tintner had a special rapport with young musicians, conducting many concerts with the national youth orchestras of several countries. A 1974 series of lectures have been broadcast many times in English-speaking countries, and he was renowned for his concert introductions, some of which may be heard in this edition.

 

Tintner’s repertoire included 56 operas, about two-thirds of which he conducted from memory. In 1974 he became Senior Resident Conductor of the Australian Opera for two years. While there he conducted now-legendary performances of Fidelio, expressive of his lifelong commitment to compassionate humanism. From 1976 Tintner was Music Director of the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra until moving to Canada at the end of 1987 as Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia. He appeared with all Australian, New Zealand orchestras and opera companies, and later with all major Canadian orchestras including the Montreal and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In the United States he toured with the Canadian Brass and appeared with the Michigan Opera Theatre.

 

He made many commercial recordings, including some for the CBC which are being reissued in the present Memorial Edition. His Naxos series of all eleven Bruckner symphonies brought him worldwide acclaim in his final two years.

 

Georg Tintner has been honoured in four countries. He was awarded several honorary doctorates, and honours including the Officer’s Cross of the Austrian Order Of Merit. He was a Member of the Order of Canada

 

He died in Halifax in October 1999.

 

Tanya Tintner

 

 

Symphony Nova Scotia

 

Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS) is Canada’s only fully professional symphony orchestra east of Quebec City. Founded in 1983, the 37 musicians of Symphony Nova Scotia have a mandate “to enhance the quality of life of citizens of Nova Scotia.” Symphony Nova Scotia is dedicated to sharing live classical music with audiences across Nova Scotia through its concerts, and with all Canadians through its many CBC broadcasts. The orchestra also collaborates with other music, theatre, and dance partners, and has recently established the Symphony Nova Scotia Chorus.

 

In the recordings in this series the second violins are placed on the right of the conductor, for the antiphonal effect between first and second violins these composers expected to hear.


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