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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
A Centenary Tribute

Sonatina for Piano Duet, Op. 39 (1954) [8’03]. Diversions, Op. 63 (1964) [17’54]. Sextet, Op. 47 (1955) [16’42]. Oboe Quartet, Op. 70)1967) [14’38]. Palm Court Waltz, Op. 81 No. 2 [3’17].
The Nash Ensemble (Gareth Hulse, oboe; Michael Collins, clarinet; Brian Wightman, bassoon; John Pigneguy, horn; Marcia Crayford, Ruth Crouch, violins; Roger Chase, viola; Christopher van Kampen, cello; Ian Brown, piano) with Kathryn Stott (piano)
Rec. June 13th-14th, 1983, location unspecified. AAD


Sir Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina for Piano Duet exemplifies many of the strengths of this music. It is approachable and eminently very well-behaved in the best English fashion. It is given a superb performance by Ian Brown and Kathryn Stott (the latter recently encountered on an excellent BIS disc of Schulhoff’s piano music: BIS CD1249). Together, Brown and Stott project the smooth, unruffled exterior of the central Andante with the clean musicality they display elsewhere. Their interplay is a joy to hear.

Moving on a decade compositionally, the Diversions for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and string quartet, the composer’s Op. 63, was written for the 1964 Cheltenham Festival. If there is a link between Diversions and a Mozartian Divertimento it resides in the light-hearted nature of the resultant compositions. Perhaps the most interesting movement is the third (Lento), which is sparser in effect than the others (and also illuminated by Michael Collins’ lovely clarinet playing), itself leading to an angular, spiky finale.

The Sextet of 1955 is scored for clarinet, horn and string quartet. Once again, the standard of performance is extremely high (the neo-classical, Stravinskian feel of the Allegro moderato is most affecting). Gareth Hulse’s playing of the solo part in the Oboe Quartet ranks with the best, although this piece does seem rather to outstay its welcome: perhaps the best movement is the final Andante, an example of pure English pastoral writing. The brief Palm Court Waltz for piano duet acts as a delightful ‘encore’.

This is a disc that will yield many pleasures.

Colin Clarke



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