Michael Houstoun

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Best Classical Album - 2008 NZ Music Awards

This double CD album is now remastered and reissued in a special edition hard-cover pack with an accompanying DVD featuring a film by Keith Hill, Michael Houstoun: New Zealand Pianist, a detailed and illuminating document of Michael recording and discussing the music on Inland.

A household name in New Zealand for over 35 years, Michael Houstoun is especially visible currently as an Arts Foundation Laureate. Featuring evocative, imaginative and accessible repertoire that spans a range of styles, Inland reaches out beyond Michael Houstoun’s historic concert hall audience.

While much of his reputation has been built on traditional piano repertoire, more recently Michael has increasingly performed new New Zealand music – here, notably by John Psathas, Gao Ping, Ken Young, Victoria Kelly and Mike Nock. Michael initiated Inland as a project specifically focusing on contemporary New Zealand solo piano music, and that direction forms the basis of this excellent double CD. His commitment to the best New Zealand art-music repertoire sees our paths increasingly intertwined. Michael’s first outing with Rattle was on John Psathas’ debut Rhythm Spike, and he featured extensively on John’s massively popular View From Olympus.


Review by Lydia Jenkin

One of New Zealand’s favourite classical pianists, Michael Houstoun has once again produced a beautiful and challenging recording with Inland - his third outing with Auckland’s Rattle Records (he recently featured heavily on John Psathas’ View From Olympus). Made an Arts Foundation Laureate [in 2006], Houstoun plays solo piano works from six diverse NZ composers over two discs, somehow pulling them all together with his unerring interpretation, often drawing on a blend of styles and genres. As expected his execution is flawless, from the intricate difficulty of Douglas Lilburn’s Chaconne (written in 1946), to the jazz-influenced vibrancy of ex-pat Mike Nock’s 12 pieces written for Houstoun to perform at the Lake Wanaka Festival of Colour last year. The dramatic Jettatura by John Psathas features layers of folk, jazz, and rock - the furiously chordal left hand adding an almost guitar-like feel. Victoria Kelly’s Landscape Prelude calls on memories of the lonely Goodnight Kiwi and demonstrates her experience in the worlds of film, theatre, electronica and contemporary art music. Gao Ping’s Dance Fury pays homage to Argentinean Astor Piazzolla, revelling in South American rhythms and a sort of faded grandeur. Houstoun’s special talent is in making the collection feel fluid and yet hitting the right emotional pitch for each work. This valuable collection of NZ works, drawn together by the very intuitive Houstoun, was recorded at the Waikato WEL Centre.

A masterpiece! – Tania Giannouli


RAT-D016 (December, 2007)

Production by Kenneth Young
Recording by Steve Garden
Design by UnkleFranc

   Michael Houstoun

   Disc One

Chaccone  (Douglas Lilburn) 21:56
Questions  (Kenneth Young) 5:20
Dancing Alone  (Kenneth Young) 4:10
Remnants  (Kenneth Young) 5:06
A Time and Place There Was (dedicated to Douglas Lilburn)  (Kenneth Young) 4:05
Catharsis  (Kenneth Young) 8:37

   Disc Two

Dance Fury (Gao Ping) 7:22
Landscape Prelude (Victoria Kelly) 4:16
Jettatura (John Psathas) 4:48
Presence (Mike Nock) 5:03
After Bach (Mike Nock) 2:29
Ringstone Round Mike Nock) 3:59
In the Time of Sakura (Mike Nock) 4:13
Red Descending (Mike Nock) 1:45
Sho’s Cradle Song (Mike Nock) 1:22
Promise (Mike Nock) 1:24
Cart Wheels (Mike Nock) 2:57
Beautiful Your Eyes (Mike Nock) 2:40
Green Cycle (Mike Nock) 2:01
Raff Riff (Mike Nock) 3:19
Serenity (Mike Nock) 2:46

   Disc Three (DVD)

Michael Houstoun: New Zealand Pianist
A film by Keith Hill
An Attar Films Production © 2012 (88:30)
Produced, directed & edited by Keith Hill
Lighting by Guy Quartermaine
Camera by Guy Quartermaine & Keith Hill




Review by Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks

This version of Inland is a [remastered] reissue of 2007’s double-CD [this time] with a bonus DVD, the Keith Hill-directed feature, Michael Houstoun: New Zealand Pianist. The film collects footage from the recording of Inland, Houstoun plays and talks about the pieces; about his playing and development, about his connection to the works, his rapport with New Zealand composers, his motives. He is sincere and engaging and the film works as a lovely portrait of one of New Zealand’s greatest musicians.

The album sounds as fresh as it did when I first heard it nearly six years ago now. It was nice to be reintroduced to it in this context, having soaked up the recent Lilburn album and a lot of Houstoun’s playing it’s with fresh ears for Houstoun that I returned to Inland.

This double features a handful of New Zealand composers creating works for Houstoun. We start with Douglas Lilburn’s long piece and a sequence of Five Pieces For Piano from Kenneth Young. Houstoun doing Lilburn is New Zealand’s version of Glenn Gould doing Bach. Across the second disc Houstoun tackles works by Gao Ping, Victoria Kelly and John Psathas (at the time of the recording Houstoun had featured on Psathas’ Rhythm Spike and View From Olympus albums). The centrepiece of the album – or of the second disc at least – remains the twelve short pieces from the pen of Mike Nock. These contemplative exercises in solo piano allow Houstoun to showcase another side of his playing, from dizzying flurries to soft tones – allowing plenty of space.

Inland remains an incredible showcase for Houstoun’s range, the breadth of his playing and knowledge; it’s a showcase too for New Zealand composers, so generous is Houstoun in the way he’s dedicated so much of his time and playing to New Zealand writers. And this version of the album is worth collecting for the documentary portrait. The film includes versions of many of the pieces from the album.