“music that seeps into your consciousness”

-Stephen Adams, ABC Classic FM


Reviews for Land’s End

“A piece of exquisitely quiet shadows shaded with microtunings, the work winds down to almost nothing before a moment of quiet refreshment leads to an ending of wispy rising lines that vanish into the ether.

Illean’s is a distinctive and original new voice in the landscape and her work was realised here by the SSO with tender care.”

-The Sydney Morning Herald

“Inspired by the delicate sea-scape paintings of Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins, Illean has constructed a similarly subtle soundscape in Land’s End. A series of wispy instrumental tendrils gradually unfolded and evolved, creating a compelling exercise in stillness and quietude that benefited from the SSO’s well-sustained pianissimo playing.”

-The Australian

“Just over 10 minutes in length, the work’s sensitive connection to visual art is expressed in music of evocative beauty.”


“Illean employs a pared back ensemble of nine strings, harp, piano and a handful of brass and wind instruments. Haunting descending scales evoked an ocean that breathed with a plaintive lapping of waves. It is a subtle, mesmerising work.”

-Classic Melbourne

“ Her music is hushed and understated. Strings slide delicately on the edge of hearing, the bass drum rumbles softly, the work inhabiting a liminal space on the edge of silence… A creeping sonic figure softly crosses the ensemble over gently weeping pitch-bends. Microtonal tunings create a mildly unsettling dissonance that threads through the work. The sound-world is so fragile that small gestures gain enhanced significance; glissandi become soft tears across the fabric of the orchestra’s sound. A gentle lapping conjures the movement of tides and waves, before the music evaporates like steam.”

-RealTime Arts. (This review is excerpted from “The beautiful music of mortality,” http://www.realtimearts.net/article/132/12228, by Angus McPherson, RealTime, 6 April, 2016)

“24 musicians involved and working with utmost delicacy.”

-Stage Noise

Reviews for Février

” … Février, œuvre toute en finesse, en douceur…”


“…geste répétitif et évolution lente d’une musique dont les trois interprètes nous communiquent la charge émotive et le pouvoir d’envoûtement”


“Également joué en première mondiale, Février de l’Australienne Lisa Illean « explore la résonnance des sons et la manière dont ils s’agrègent ». En préambule, la clarinette descend et le violoncelle monte ; ils se rejoignent. Naît alors un chemin d’accords doux, très égaillé dans le temps. Cette qualité, précisément, ainsi que la tendresse omniprésence dans toute l’œuvre et la parcimonie de l’invention lui donnent une couleur feldmanienne intéressante.


Reviews for A through–grown earth

“Harp and zither gain a harmonic sheen that hovers in the background, high overtones joining Fraser’s duplicated voice in ghostly chorus. ... Colouration inevitably takes on a darker, deeper hue and both composer and singer avoid the easier choices. The electronics in this piece allow more control of the tuning and add to the otherworldly atmosphere.”

– Boring Like A Drill

Reviews for Januaries

“Even more lovely – honestly, one of the most exquisite things I heard during the festival – was Lisa Illean‘s Januaries, which proved how immersive non-demonstrative music can be. For its duration, it was as if the whole world was just this music, resonating out and ruminating over a simultaneously happy yet possibly bittersweet song.”


“a slowly-evolving study of microtones, creating an undergrowth of sound, deeply considered texture and subtly accumulating tension…”

-Classical Source


-The Arts Desk

“After the interval, we heard Illean’s Januaries (2017), shaped in some sense by ‘memories of summers spent as a child with my grandparents in Queensland’. What might initially have seemed more textural music in quality had a definite guiding thread, suggestive initially, if only to me, of a process of melting. Descending, sliding figures were part of that; so too were ever-transforming harmonic fields. Distant bells first seemed to evoke something, or perhaps the point was that they did not; they were part of the landscape, of a space that could not necessarily be delineated, that slipped between our fingers, even our ears.”


“Januaries by the Australian Lisa Illean also impressed with its shifting soundscape, delicately rendered.”

-The Times

Reviews for Cantor

“The work shows an extraordinary sensitivity to colour and timbre and creates an absorbing sound-world which lingers after listening. The writing is thoughtful, use of ensemble and connection with the voice exquisite and the composer’s assured and individual voice evident…”Australian Art Music Awards. (Cantor was awarded Instrumental Work of the Year at the 2018 Australian Art Music Awards).

“The calm soprano part explores the quiet certainties of the inner world against a background of loneliness and delicate beauty.” (The Sydney Morning Herald).

Lisa Illean’s Cantor is an impressive, impressing work. She uses a wide palette of strings, winds and percussion with deft coherence, weaving together complexities — microtones and microtimbres abound — to somehow, miraculously, create clarity... It’s a real achievement” (Harriet Cunningham, A Cunning Plan)

“Immersively contemplative... long-noted and suggestive of interior worlds. [...] Illean’s Cantor is also ethereal... Vowels are sensually extended, the voice glides up from mezzo depths to moments of passion and down, in the end, to lingering sadness. It’s a memorable work, not least for the “infusion” of sounds between instruments and between instruments and voice.” (Keith Gallasch, RealTime)

”The music is long-lined… and its spare layering seemingly simple but quietly gripping in its yield of resonant, sometimes microtonal complexities.” – RealTime Arts (excerpted from Ensemble Offspring: Lisa Illean and the porous voice” by Keith Gallasch 20th September 2017).

Reviews for Sleeplessness ... Sails

“bursting with imagination” 5against4

“One of the most telling things about Illean’s treatment is its pace, very slow throughout, the supporting material from the piano – ranging from sporadic chords to quietly tumbling passages of tracery – closely following the inch-by-inch progression of the soloist, made all the more potent in this first performance by Sarah Connolly’s lingering over and ruminating on the words in a way that feels almost tactile [...] Illean’s text also turns at its end, the sea suddenly rushing forward in the insomniac’s imagination. Rather wisely, Illean doesn’t over-egg or exaggerate this burst of drama but simply channels it into more convoluted accompaniment, reducing the sea’s “growl’ to a mere whisper, thereby keeping the magical, all-enveloping spell that Sleeplessness ... Sails casts unbroken to the end.” 5against4

“[Illean] creates a dream mood, in which fantasy is evoked by expansive registral contrasts in the piano, and the improvisatory quality of the accompaniment’s trickling lines, as well as by the slow presentation of the text by the voice. [...] The descent of the vocal line in the final stanza resonated with feeling – ‘And the sea, and Homer – all is moved by love.’, as the sea trembled and churned with increasing tempestuousness and vigour.” Opera Today