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Turnbull Library makes iconic score of Overture: Aotearoa available online

1 May 2020

The original score of Douglas Lilburn’s Overture: Aotearoa has been digitised and is now available online, in celebration of its 80th anniversary and the twentieth year of New Zealand Music Month.

“In recognition of these anniversaries and to honour the solidarity shown by New Zealanders during the present Covid-19 crisis, we are making the digitised score open-access online.” says Chris Szekely, Chief Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

“Douglas Lilburn was 24 years old studying at the Royal College of Music in London 80 years ago when he composed the Overture. It expressed Lilburn’s deep feelings for his native country.”

The Overture, considered New Zealand’s most iconic orchestral work, first premiered on 15 April 1940 at a concert at His Majesty’s Theatre in London to celebrate the New Zealand Centenary. It has since been performed and recorded on numerous occasions.

The original full score of Overture: Aotearoa (ref: fMS-Papers-2483-048) was donated by the composer to the Alexander Turnbull Library around 1980, as part of the Douglas Lilburn collection. Prepared by Lilburn himself in 1940, the score was used by conductors for live performances and is heavily annotated. Lilburn revised the work in 1988.

To acknowledge the significance of this musical composition to New Zealand, in 2011 the Alexander Turnbull Library successfully nominated the holograph score for the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. It was the first Turnbull Library item or collection to be added to the New Zealand register.

“The score of Overture: Aotearoa was digitised in 2015 by the Turnbull Library to help protect it from frequent handling, as one of the most significant items in the Library’s Archive of New Zealand Music”, says Dr Michael Brown, Music Curator at the Library.

“Making the digitised score available online will provide researchers, composers and performers with convenient access to Lilburn’s original version of this iconic work and the annotations that reflect its early performance history. We hope that this step will further increase interest in and appreciation of Lilburn’s contribution to New Zealand music.”

The Alexander Turnbull Library is part of the National Library of New Zealand and Department of Internal Affairs.


More information can be found on the National Library blog

Douglas Lilburn in London in 1940 (photographer unknown). Ref PAColl-2547-01.jpg

Douglas Lilburn picture: Photograph of Douglas Lilburn in London in 1940 (photographer unknown). Ref: PAColl-2547-01. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Overture Aotearoa title page and first page.jpg

Score: Title page and first page of Douglas Lilburn, Overture: Aotearoa (1940). Ref: fMS-Papers-2483-048. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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