This is a useful collection from Australia
of Berkeley’s solo piano and chamber ensemble music. It covers
a variety of repertoire in an imaginatively planned programme.
The recorded sound is atmospheric and sensitive in focus, making
this disc a suitable starting point for anyone wanting to encounter
the music of this urbane and civilised composer.
Perhaps inspired by the example of Stravinsky,
the Three Pieces for clarinet solo, composed during the 1930s,
are heard in their first recording here. And very pleasing they
are too. Likewise the Sonatina for violin and piano has seldom
been available in the catalogue, and this excellent performance
reveals it as a serious piece, though the music is not without
charm also, particularly in the finale.
The most complex among these various pieces
is probably the Concertino, which was originally composed for
Carl Dolmetsch, when it featured both recorder and harpsichord.
This newer revised version, which employs flute and piano instead,
is heard in a tasteful and sympathetic performance, though the
Endymion Ensemble on Dutton do offer a significant challenge
when it comes to a top recommendation, particularly because
their performance seems just a touch more lively.
The performances of the solo piano music by
Len Vorster are idiomatic and really bring out the composer’s
personality, though it needs to be said that Margaret Fingerhut’s
Chandos collection is if anything better still, having a keener
Among these performances the cello playing
of David Berlin is a highlight. His performance of the beautifully
sensitive Andantino comes off well; so too the more modernist
music of the Duo, Op. 81 No. 1, representing the more challenging
aspect of Berkeley’s later style. This well written score also
serves to prove that Berkeley’s music is more wide-ranging than
is commonly supposed.
Although it is by no means a definitive collection,
this Naxos issue serves an important purpose in bringing Bekeley’s
music before a wider public, and at bargain price too.
see also Review
by Jonathan Woolf