Complete vocal and solo piano music.
Felicity Lott, Roderick Kennedy.
Peter Lawson (piano)
Albany Troy 290
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.
Lieder Album; Trois Chansons;
Trois Petites Marches Funebres;
Three English Songs;
Fragments Psychologiques; Three Songs (1921);
Dialogue between Tom Filuter and his man by Ned the Dog Stealer;
Choral Prelude on In Dulce Jubilo;
Red Roses and Red Noses;
The Expulsion from Paradise;
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.
ALBANY RECORDS (UK)
PO BOX 12,
LANCASHIRE, LA5 9PD
TEL: 01 524 735873
FAX: 01 524 736448
ALBANY RECORDS (US)
PO BOX 5011, ALBANY, NY 12205
TEL. 518 436 8814 Fax: 518 436 0643
See other disc of Berners songs reviewed