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Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Sonatina for violin and piano, Op. 17 (1942) [13.14]
Five Short Pieces for piano, Op. 4 (1936) [6.40]
Andantino for cello and piano, Op. 21 No. 2 (1955) [2.56]
Three Pieces for clarinet solo (1939) [5.05]
Mazurka for piano, Op. 101b (1982) [1.24]
Duo for cello and piano, Op. 81 No. 1 (1971) [6.19]
Six Preludes for piano, Op. 23 (1945) [11.45]
Concertino for flute, violin, cello and piano, Op. 49 (1955) [14.12]
Schirmer Ensemble
Rec November 2000 (Duo), December 2000 (Sonatina, Concertino), April 2001 (Andantino), South Melbourne Town Hall; January 2003 (Five Short Pieces, Preludes, Mazurka), Melba Hall, University of Melbourne
NAXOS 8.557324 [61:35]

 

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 edge rhythmically.

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.

Terry Barfoot

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

 


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