Classical Music classical CDs reviewed New CD reviews every day latest Classical CD releases Buy your CDs of the classics here

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Complete vocal and solo piano music.
Felicity Lott, Roderick Kennedy. Peter Lawson (piano)
Albany Troy 290 [60]

In my youth, I remember being impressed by a recording of Berners' The Triumph of Neptune (a Beecham recording, I think). And that, with one exception, was the extent of my knowledge of the music of this fascinating figure, until the arrival of this CD. Berners(1883-1950) was multi-talented. But while he was a skilled painter and a linguist who also wrote six novels, it was as a musician that he wished to be remembered.

The earliest works on this CD date from 1913. As a young man, Berners was clearly more aware of the European avant-garde than most of his colleagues. Were it not for the ever-present element of parody, you might think, in the three songs of the Lieder album, you were hearing early Alban Berg. These, together with the Trois Chansons (1920) and the Three English Songs (1920) are superbly sung by Dame Felicity Lott, accompanied with discreet sympathy by Peter Lawson.

Lawson also contributes the piano solos, which, ranging over a period 1916-1945, show how in that thirty years, Berners' style retreated from his avant-garde position without, however, ever losing the pungency of his wit. That wit is to be heard to advantage in the Trois Petites Marches Funèbres (1916: the exception mentioned above). There are few tears shed for Un Homme d'Etat - despatched with a reference to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but the passing of the family pet canary is quite sincere in its grief. In the third, Pour une Tante à Heritage, we can almost see auntie's relatives hastening for the reading of the will.

Portsmouth Point precedes Walton's overture by six years, but shares nothing with it beyond title and source of inspiration in Rowlandson's drawing. It seems to anticipate Les Six. Apart from a transcription for OUP's Bach Book for Harriet Cohen, there was to be no more piano music until a last few trifles appeared in the 1940s. Then the film director Cavalcanti used his Chopin pastiche Valse for the film Halfway House (1944) and his Polka for the Tommy Trinder film Champagne Charlie (1944)

Roderick Kennedy contributes Three 1921 Songs, and the splendidly-titled Tom Filuter and His Man by Ned the Dog Stealer - a mouthful for a mere 79 seconds of music. But I enjoyed most Red roses and Red Noses - an Ivor Novello pastiche sung by Dame Felicity appropriately enough after the manner of Vanessa Lee. A word of appreciation is warranted for Philip Lane's exceptionally informative notes for this delightful recording.


Geoffrey Self


Lieder Album; Trois Chansons;
Trois Petites Marches Funebres;
Three English Songs;
Fragments Psychologiques; Three Songs (1921);
Portsmouth Point;
Dialogue between Tom Filuter and his man by Ned the Dog Stealer;
Choral Prelude on In Dulce Jubilo;
Polka (1941);
Valse (1942);
Red Roses and Red Noses;
The Expulsion from Paradise;
March (1945);
Come on Algernon

This release follows the Albany Records release of Berners' Complete Music for Piano Duet, named as a 'Disc of the Year' in Fanfare magazine. The release coincides with the publication by Chatto & Windus of a new biography of Lord Berners by Mark Amory, literary editor of The Spectator.

PO BOX 12,
TEL: 01 524 735873
FAX: 01 524 736448

PO BOX 5011, ALBANY, NY 12205
TEL. 518 436 8814 Fax: 518 436 0643

See other disc of Berners songs reviewed this month



Geoffrey Self

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index