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Joshua Meggitt
Cyclic Defrost, July 2009

Classical guitar music can be a dreary exercise, too often relegated to bittersweet Mediterranean holiday soundtrack, but this disc of works by two of New Zealand’s most famous composers is indeed compelling. Expertly performed by Brazil-born New Zealand-based guitarist Gunter Herbig, much of this set retains hints of the refreshing air of Segovia’s Spanish favourites whilst injecting enough modernist kinks to keep things interesting.

As a student of Vaughan-Williams, one might assume Douglas’s music to be docile, but while these works for guitar are certainly easy to enjoy passively, they’re far from being placid revisionist tonal exercises. Rather, he approaches these short works as exploratory sketches, etudes of sorts for the contemporary guitarist. Of the ‘Seventeen Pieces for Guitar’ of 1963, 1969 and 1970, his only published music for guitar, few contain key signatures, titles or time signatures, so they function more as free-floating patterns for the performer to interpret, this notion reinforced by frequent notations of ‘…with freedom’ in the score. There’s a languid, open quality which allows them to drift by like flowing water, forking off in novel but rarely shocking paths. The ‘Canzona: Semplice, con moto’ seems to recall the contemporary British folk techniques of Fairport Convention and co., while ‘No. 4’ updates Bach-like patterns into a modern framework. His unpublished work takes greater risks in it’s even looser stance, with ‘Unpublished Piece No. 3’ for instance slowed to a crawl, notes dropping like rain.

David Farquhar was a student of Lilburne’s and his guitar music is more aggressive, more fond of dissonance and sharp angles. His ‘Suite’ of 1966, dedicated to English painter and guitarist Ronald Burt who apparently popularised the instrument in New Zealand, employs frequent changes in time signature, harmonics and extra-instrumental attack, akin to much of today’s post-Fahey free-folk guitarists. 1995’s ‘Prospero Dreaming’ reaches further, exploring the guitar’s entire range, scrapes, whacks and pinging tones accompanying aggressive fingerwork, and frequent riffs left intentionally suspended. This engaging set of rarely-heard music deserves much wider recognition.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

Though guitar playing is blossoming in New Zealand, its origins go no further back than the 1950s when the English painter and guitarist, Ronald Burt, migrated there to set up a guitar school. Such was his impact that major New Zealand composers, including Douglas Lilburn and David Farquhar, dedicated works to him. Today the soloist on this disc, the Brazilian-born, Gunter Herbig, enlarges on Burt’s original work as a teacher at the School of Music in Auckland. Douglas Lilburn, whose symphonic works I have so much enjoyed on two previous Naxos discs [Lilburn Orchestral Works 8.557697 and Lilburn Symphonies Nos 1–3, 8.555862], is here represented by his Seventeen Pieces, each one a short cameo, many of them left to the player’s discretion on tempo, but seemingly intended to form a work of contrasts. It is certainly not a flashy piece, much of it well within the scope of an early student, though its modern harmonic shifts will titillate the ear. Two short Unpublished Pieces follow in similar mood, the final four tracks of Lilburn being taken from incidental music he has composed for plays, the two Hamlet pieces being particularly atmospheric. David Farquhar had been a student of Lilburn before studying in the UK. His 1966 Suite was dedicated to Burt. His Prospero Dreaming takes its theme from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, at that point where you will find the words We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and seeks to awaken New Zealand’s empathy with Prospero’s Enchanted Island. There is nothing here, as with the remainder of the disc, to challenge the player’s technique, but Herbig produces a nice sound, at times conjuring up a dreamy peacefulness. The engineering is good.






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4:41:31 PM, 21 September 2014
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