27 Oct 2017

LARRY PRUDEN: Birthday Disguises

From Resound, 9:05 pm on 27 October 2017

NZSO CO/Donald Armstrong. Recorded by RNZ Concert, 07 February 1995.

Larry Pruden was born in New Plymouth in 1925. He began learning the piano at about age 8, became church organist at 13, and joined the music staff of New Plymouth Boy's High School in 1940 as a piano teacher. His first known composition dates from 1938; at this stage his musical mentor was his uncle, the well-known blind organist and composer Joseph Papaesch. Apart from contact with Douglas Lilburn at Cambridge Music Schools from 1947, he was self-taught in composition until granted a bursary for study in England. In London from 1951–1954, he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied composition, conducting and percussion.

Larry Pruden

Larry Pruden Photo: Promethean Editions

In 1952 he joined Benjamin Frankel's composition class which also contained David Farquhar, Edwin Carr and Robert Burch. He returned to New Zealand in 1955, and settled in Wellington. He was employed in various capacities by NZ Broadcasting until 1975, when he went to Dunedin as Mozart Fellow at Otago University. During all of this time he was also involved in tutoring composition at summer music schools, conducting, writing programme notes and introducing radio programmes. Larry Pruden died in 1982.

The score of Birthday Disguises is inscribed, “a patchwork diversion for the Lindsay String Orchestra’s 20th anniversary, stitched together in appreciation and affection by Larry Pruden”. The piece is a parodic collage of pieces from the Orchestra’s early repertoire, and an acknowledgement of the Orchestra’s support for a generation of New Zealand composers - the work includes quotations from Douglas Lilburn, and earlier works by Pruden himself. Birthday Disguises was premiered by the Orchestra, led by Ruth Pearl, at their anniversary concert in Wellington, in July 1968.

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