This version of Inland is a reissue of 2007’s double-CD 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.