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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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LORD BERNERS (1883-1950)
Songs and Piano Music
Polka (1941)
Lieder Album (1913-18)
The Gold Fish (1915)
Dispute between the butterfly and the toad (1915)
Trois Chansons (1920)
Trois Petites Marches Funèbres (1916)
Three English Songs (1920)
Psychological Fragments (1916)
Dialogue between Tom Filuter and his man (1924)
March (1945)
The expulsion from paradise (1945)
Three Songs (1921)
Valse (1943)
Red Roses and Red Noses (c.1940)
Come on Algernon (1944)
Ian Partridge (tenor)
Len Vorster (piano)
MARCO POLO 8.225159 [51.44]
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Berners has been very thoroughly and stylishly documented at the orchestral level by Marco Polo. Now they offer a complement to those four discs from among his songs and piano music. Berners, the eccentric, is very evident here. His links were not at all with British pastoralism or Celtic adventures or Oriental pictorialism. His world encompassed Stravinsky, Casella and Diaghilev. Rather than dwell in detail on this anthology let me say that the disc is well recorded and is the stronger for Michael Hurd's intelligent notes. I wish he could have been allowed more space to expand his comments. All the texts are present in the insert.

The variety of approach (excluding the British-linked styles mentioned above) is quite wide. Berners had the ability to breathe in and creatively reflect and modestly extend various styles. His sensibility is more nearly Gallic or, more accurately, Continental than it is British. He is a British composer only by accident of birth. Berg, Zemlinsky, Satie and Milhaud - all these names leap more readily to mind than any of his countrymen when listening to this music. If you must find Brits with whom to link him then he is most closely thought of in relation to the internationalism of Lambert and Goossens and early Walton (Facade).

The music is attractive and well sung. Ian Partridge is a singer for whom I have the highest regard. His intelligence coupled with clarity of diction and lack of affectation place him well above more venerated names. The idea of combining songs and solo piano music (most sensitively done by Len Vorster) is a good one. Wit and humour is to be heard in both genres. The Trois Petites Marches Funèbres (1916) complete with one march lampooning the fate motif from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (also jollied up by Peter Warlock in one of his uproarious Cod-Pieces) shows the linkage with Satie. Music-Hall songs such as Red Roses and Red Noses add to the flavour of quirky humour. While the Bartokian assaults of the Fragments Psychologiques give further depth and variety.

This disc faces competition at full price in the vocal and solo piano music (Felicity Lott, Roderick Kennedy. Peter Lawson (piano) Albany Troy 290) running to circa 79 minutes - a full 27 minutes additional music. Also there used to be a Unicorn collection but that anthology seems to have disappeared from view. Did it ever make it to CD, I wonder.

Summary: good disc but facing the toughest competition from the more generous Albany collection.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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