Lennox Berkeley Timeline

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Below is a summary of the main events of Lennox Berkeley’s life. See also biographical essays by Professor Peter Dickinson, Tony Scotland and an essay by Winton Dean on the unfinished opera Faldon Park, with references to Berkeley's other works and insights into his life.

Age Date Events
  1903 Born 12 May at Sunningwell Plains, Boar’s Hill, Oxford, to Commander Hastings George FitzHardinge Berkeley, RN (eldest son of George, 7th Earl of Berkeley and Cécile née Drummond de Melfort), and his wife, Aline Carla (second daughter of Sir James Harris and Gerhardine née von Gall).
3 c1906 Shows an early interest in Schubert Lieder, as sung by his godmother, Sybil Jackson (step-daughter of his uncle Randal, 8th Earl of Berkeley) at Berkeley Castle.
6 1909 Enters the Dragon School, Oxford, and family moves to The Lodge, Woodstock Road, north Oxford.
11 1914 Starts at Gresham’s School, Holt, Norfolk.
15 1918 Leaves Gresham’s because of persistent illness, is tutored at home for nine months.
16 1919 Starts at St George’s School, Harpenden.
17 1920 1st public performance of his music, at a school concert.
19 1922 Goes up to Oxford to read French, Old French and Philology at Merton College. Also studies organ with WH Harris and Henry Ley. Meets Ravel through family friends in London, shows him some of his work and Ravel suggests he studies with Nadia Boulanger.
22 1925 Cox of College VIII. Provides music for Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford film The Scarlet Woman.
23 1926 Introduction and Dance (lost)for small orchestra conducted by Anthony Bernard at a Chelsea concert broadcast on BBC. Takes a 4th Class degree in Modern Languages. Goes to France to study with Boulanger.
24 1927 The Thresher published by OUP. Concertino (lost) performed at BMS Concert, London.
25 1928 Accompanies Ravel to Oxford, as interpreter and minder, when Ravel is awarded doctorate of music.
26 1929 Received into the Roman Catholic Church, and takes the baptismal name François. Starts writing reports on music in Paris for Monthly Musical Record.
29 1932 Completes studies with Boulanger. Lives on the Riviera with invalid parents at Villa Melfort, Cap Ferrat. Tennis and golf, parties and concerts with Somerset Maugham and friends at neighbouring Villa Mauresque.
30 1933 Begins work on oratorio Jonah. Lord Berners introduces Berkeley to J. & W. Chester.
31 1934 Chester’s launch Berkeley with Violin Sonata No 2, and Polka for two pianos. Father, Capt. Berkeley, dies at Villa Melfort.
32 1935 Mother dies at Villa Melfort.
33 1936 Meets Benjamin Britten and critic Peter Burra, ISCM Festival, Barcelona, where his Overture for Chamber Orchestra is played. Berkeley and Britten holiday together in Cornwall, and discuss composition and pacifism. Premiere of Jonah. Begins work on First Symphony.
34 1937 With Britten, moves into a converted windmill at Snape near Aldeburgh. Britten writes Piano Concerto and dedicates it to Berkeley: Berkeley responds the following year by dedicating his Introduction and Allegro for two pianos and orchestra to Britten. Peter Burra dies in an air crash in Berkshire.
35 1938 First performance of Britten/Berkeley Mont Juic, orchestral suite based on Catalan tunes they heard in Barcelona in 1936. Psalm setting Domini est Terra (dedicated to Boulanger) chosen for ISCM Festival in London & repeated at Three Choirs Festival, Worcester. Ballet The Judgment of Paris (choreography Frederick Ashton) given at Sadler’s Wells gala.
36 1939 Britten goes to America with Peter Pears; Britten-Berkeley friendship cools.  
37 1940 Spends summer with Dylan and Caitlin Thomas, Humphrey Searle, Arnold Cooke and William Glock, as guests of John & Natalie Davenport at Marshfield, Gloucestershire. Premiere, Serenade for Strings.
39 1942 Joins BBC, first as talks producer, French Section, then as orchestral programme planner, Music Department.
40 1943 Conducts LPO in first performance of Symphony No. 1 at Proms. Premiere, Divertimento.
41 1944 Freda Bernstein becomes Berkeley’s secretary in BBC Music Department.
43 1946 Leaves BBC. Awarded Collard Fellowship for Music. Becomes Professor of Composition at RAM. Marries Freda Bernstein, London, December 14.
44 1947 Berkeleys move into 8 Warwick Avenue, Little Venice, London. Conducts English Opera Group in first performance of Stabat Mater in Zurich.
45 1948 Kathleen Ferrier gives first performance, London, Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila. Colin Horsley gives first performance with LSO of Piano Concerto, at Proms. Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith give first performance of Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra with LSO conducted by Malcolm Sargent. Birth of first son, Michael FitzHardinge (Britten a godparent).
47 1950 Premiere of Sinfonietta. Birth of second son, Julian Lennox (Boulanger a godparent).
51 1954 Premieres of operas A Dinner Engagement (instant success, Aldeburgh Festival) and Nelson (mixed reception, Sadler’s Wells).
53 1956 Premiere of opera Ruth, English Opera Group, London. Birth of third son, Nicholas Eadnoth.
54 1957 Awarded CBE.
58 1961 Premiere of Violin Concerto.
59 1962 Cobbett Medal for services to chamber music.
61 1964 Premiere, Mass for Five Voices, Westminster Cathedral.
64 1967 Awarded OBE.
65 1968 Leaves RAM after 22 years.
67 1970 Honorary Doctorate of Music, Oxford.
70 1971 Appointed Composer of the Year by Composer’s Guild of GB. Awarded Knighthood of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI.
71 1974 Knighted. Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. Opens new Department of Music at Keele University.
72 1975 President, Performing Right Society. Master of the Musicians’ Company. Honorary Professor of Music, Keele University.
74 1977 President, Cheltenham Music Festival.
75 1978 Unveils memorial stone to Benjamin Britten in Westminster Abbey.
76 1979 Begins last opera Faldon Park (libretto Winton Dean) commissioned by English National Opera. President, British Music Society.
82 1985 Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Abandons work on Faldon Park.
84 1987 President Emeritus, Cheltenham Festival.
86 1989 Death on December 26 in St Charles’ Hospital, Ladbroke Grove, London.
  1990 Requiem Mass (in Latin), 4 January, at Church of Our Lady, Lisson Grove, London, celebrated by Fr Michael Hollings. Memorial Requiem Mass (broadcast live on BBC Radio Three), 20 March, at Westminster Cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster.