“It is impossible to overstate the debt we owe to the late Richard Itter and his Lyrita record label for promoting and, in many cases, reviving British music. This four-disc set is devoted to British symphonies mostly written in the first half of the 20th century, nearly all of which have been totally ignored both by the major record labels and concert promoters both at home and abroad… With concise yet thoroughly researched and informative booklet notes by Paul Conway, this is a very significant release which really deserves to be snapped up by everyone, not least those who still cling to the discredited belief that when it comes to composing symphonies, Britain has always been in the second division.” Marc Rochester, musicweb-international.com
The program on this remarkable record includes the 'Simple Symphony' Op.4 by Britten (1913-1976) in four movements, which owes its title to the fact that the composer used themes composed between nine and twelve. 'Antiphon' for Orchestra Op.85 by Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989) is in two movements. 'In Nomine (after Purcell)' by Gavin Bryars (1943-) precedes the concluding work 'When Ingrid met Capa' by Michael Nyman (1944-), recounting the meeting of the actress Ingrid Bergman and photographer Robert Capa. (Synopsis by Jean-Jacques Millo)
Performed by the Dogma Chamber Orchestra & Mikhail Gurewitsch (conductor)
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Lennox Berkeley’s Stabat Mater derives from one of the most fertile and inspired periods of his compositional life. A masterpiece, and until now the last of his major works to go unrecorded, it was written for a concert tour by his close friend Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group; hence the unusual but effective scoring for six solo voices and twelve instrumentalists. Delphian artists The Marian Consort - with five acclaimed discs of early music to their credit - now show their versatility in a cappella and accompanied music by both Lennox and his son Michael Berkeley. They are partnered in the larger works by the Berkeley Ensemble, whose performances are enriched by their intimate knowledge of these composers’ music. The same can be said of conductor David Wordsworth, who has known and worked with both composers, and who here realises a long-cherished ambition to direct this important addition to the catalogue. (Synopsis by Delphian/Presto Classical)
This album comprises the complete chamber music & songs with harp by Edmund Rubbra, plus two other works for solo harp, Berkeley's Nocturne of 1967 and Howells' Prelude No 1 of 1951. The harpist is Danielle Perrett who recalls that the Berkeley piece was written for the brilliant teenage harpist Hannah Francis, and notes that it is a delightful work not often performed,'which is a pity, as it is fully characteristic of the composer'. The Executive Producer of this new disc was Adrian Yardley (a son of Rubbra, and a member of the Berkeley Society), who writes about the Catholic links between Rubbra and Berkeley in the 2016 Berkeley Society Journal. (Synopsis by Tony Scotland)
Performed by Danielle Perrett (harp)
This recording includes Berkeley's two early pieces for harpsichord, written for his friend Vere Pilkington while both were still at Oxford in the 1920s: Mr Pilkington's Toye and For Vere. They are played by the young Welsh harpsichordist, Christopher D. Lewis, who is studying Berkeley's harpsichord music as part of his PhD programme at Southampton University; he writes about this in the 2016 issue of the Berkeley Society Journal. The Berkeley works come in a compilation of modern British harpsichord music, with works by Herbert Howells, John Jeffreys and Gavin Bryars, on Naxos 8573668. (Synopsis by Tony Scotland)
Performed by Christopher Lewis (harpsichord)
The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge’s new release on Signum blends a selection of ancient and modern works from the 16th and 20th Centuries, all centred on the theme of evening.
Performed by the Choir of Jesus College Cambridge & Mark Wilson (conductor)
The piano was Lennox Berkeley’s own instrument and his piano works represent a microcosm of his very best compositional talents. Influenced harmonically by French models, his music is suffused with lyricism and subtle harmonies. The Sonata, Op. 20 possesses a particularly haunting beauty in its slow movement, while simple but distinctive melodic and rhythmic ideas permeate the Six Preludes, Op. 23 and Five Short Pieces, Op. 4. The Theme and Variations, Op. 73, recorded here for the first time, offers a favourite Berkeley vehicle for conveying a highly individual and personal language. (Synopsis by Naxos)
Performed by Raphael Terroni (piano) & Norman Beedie (piano)
The breadth of repertoire on French Connections showcases Ainsley's range, expansive vocal colour, expressive voice and exceptional understanding of text. Accompanying Ainsley is Malcolm Martineau, to whom Heggie's Friendly Persuasions is dedicated.
The American composer pays homage to Poulenc with four imaginative songs, each of which recreates in miniature a transformative friendship in Poulenc's life. In 2008 Ainsley and Martineau gave the world premiere performance of Friendly Persuasions at Wigmore Hall, London.
The recital also includes three works by Poulenc: Fancy, Bleuet and Tel jour telle nuit, a beautifully conceived and shaped cycle; considered Poulenc's greatest vocal work it is reminiscent of the great cycles of a century earlier such as Winterreise or Dichterliebe.
Despite French heritage and fluency in the language Berkeley's friendship with Britten led him to set verse by the English poet, W.H. Auden instead. His Five Poems are some of the best of their kind; a cohesive and satisfying collection, Berkeley perfectly captures both the fanciful and reflective elements of Auden's poetry.
Auden in turn re-introduced Britten to the works of John Donne, which Britten went on to set in his Holy Sonnets; darkly moving and highly demanding, they are among his finest work. (Synopsis by Linn Records)
Performed by Malcolm Martineau (piano) & John Mark Ainsley (tenor)
Performed by Bruce Bonnell (horn), Hai-Xin Wu (violin) & Zhihua Tang (piano)