The Society announces with great sadness the death of Professor Peter Dickinson, composer, musicologist and pianist. He died in hospital, after a short but serious illness, aged 88. As Norman Lebrecht wrote on his classical music website, Slipped Disc, Peter was a ‘polymath … of ceaseless curiosity’. A Juilliard graduate from Lytham St Annes, he was an authority on American music, from Ives and Cage to present-day composers, first professor of music at Keele in 1974 and later teacher at Goldsmiths in London. He composed concertos for organ, piano and violin, as well as a vast amount of vocal music, much of it performed with his sister, the mezzo-soprano Meriel Dickinson. Classical Music magazine wrote that ‘he deserves his place among music’s elder statesmen.’ Peter was one of the best informed and most constant advocates of the music of Lennox Berkeley. Along with other books on Billy Mayerl, Aaron Copland, John Cage, Lord Berners and Samuel Barber, he wrote the composer’s definitive musical biography, The Music of Lennox Berkeley (Boydell, second edition, 2003). He also edited a volume of writings by and about Berkeley, Lennox Berkeley and Friends (Boydell, 2012), and produced a lifetime of miscellaneous articles and reviews. Peter made many recordings of the music, some of them with his sister Meriel. As he explained in a long article in the current (2023) issue of the Society Journal, he first came across Berkeley’s music while he was still at school, met the man himself not long afterwards and, with his wife Bridget and sister Meriel, remained close friends of Lennox and Freda and the family. Peter Dickinson was the acknowledged authority on Berkeley’s music, constantly consulted by musicians, publishers and other musicologists for guidance on ambiguities in manuscripts and published editions. He will be greatly missed by a wide circle of family and friends, by an ever wider circle of colleagues and collaborators throughout the world of music, by the young musicians who were beneficiaries of the Rainbow Dickinson Trust, and by all of us in the Lennox Berkeley Society, of which he was a founder member, a former Committee member, and a senior Patron.
A Berkeley Celebration
Saturday 20 May 2023
A celebration of the 75th birthday of Michael Berkeley CBE, the 120th anniversary of the birth of his father Lennox Berkeley, and the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd, featuring the premiere performance of a new work by Michael Berkeley, Released by Love, and a Q&A with the composer led by Petroc Trelawny.
7.30pm at Hampstead Parish Church, London NW3 6UU. Tickets £15/£12, Book online. Door sales available. Parking is limited close to the church.
Gibbons Variations live in London
One of Lennox Berkeley’s finest but least-known choral works, the Variations on a Hymn Tune by Orlando Gibbons, is to be given its London premiere at the Cadogan Hall on Wednesday 19 October at 7.30pm. The performers will be the tenor Nick Pritchard and the London Choral Sinfonia (director, Michael Waldron), whose premiere recording of the work was released in July on the CD, ‘Colourise’ (Orchid Classics ORC 101200). Gibbons’ original hymn tune is known as Song 20, which was set to the words ‘My Lord, My Life, My Love’ (No. 442 in The English Hymnal), by the early eighteenth-century Congregational minister and theologian Isaac Watts, and Berkeley scored his six variations for tenor solo, chorus, string orchestra and organ. He was commissioned to write the work by Britten’s English Opera Group, which gave the first performance at the Aldeburgh Festival in Aldeburgh Parish Church on 21 June 1952, with Peter Pears taking the solo role, Ralph Downes playing the organ and Berkeley himself conducting. Chester Music published the score in 1981, in an edition by Berkeley’s student, the composer Christopher Brown.
Writing about the piece in the 2022 Lennox Berkeley Society Journal, Michael Waldron, founder and artistic director of London Choral Sinfonia, describes is as ‘a through-composed mini-cantata’. He discovered the work while browsing in a sheet-music shop, was delighted to find it was perfectly suited for the London Choral Sinfonia, and astonished that it had been so little performed. ‘It will be a great pleasure – and honour’, he writes, ‘to give this amazing piece the exposure it so deserves’. Waldron will be conducting the Gibbons Variations at the end of a programme that includes works by Vaughan Williams and the contemporary choral composer Richard Pantcheff. Among the RVW pieces are the Concerto Accademico for Violin and Orchestra (soloist Jack Liebeck), and the Five English Folk Songs for a capella choir. Tickets are available from Cadogan Hall.
Berkeley and Menotti
Staircase Opera, a small company of professional players directed by Martin Harvey, will be pairing Berkeley’s A Dinner Engagement with Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone in a comic double bill in Exeter and Ashburton in September. Known for its highly dramatic productions, Staircase describes A Dinner Engagement as a cross between Upstairs, Downstairs and Front Door Back Door, which pokes fun at class in the 1950s: ‘Who’s coming? Who’s cooking? Who’s paying the bill?’ Menotti wrote The Telephone in 1947 – ‘all about how being stuck on the phone makes us miss what is right in front of us’. The Exeter performances in the Cygnet Theatre are on 22 and 23 September, and the Ashburton performance in Ashburton Arts on the 24th. Tickets from Cygnet Theatre and Ashburton Arts.
Berkeley for Twenty Fingers
An exciting new CD from BIS brings the complete works for piano duet by Lennox Berkeley in a recording by the husband-and-wife duo, Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins. Supported by the Lennox Berkeley Society, the disc starts with a witty piece that’s sometimes played as an encore, the Palm Court Waltz. This began life as an orchestral work called Diana and Actaeon Waltz, written for Dicky Buckle’s dance extravaganza, Save the Titian, at the London Coliseum in 1971. Berkeley transcribed it for piano duet at the request of Burnet Pavitt, himself a talented amateur pianist, and the two friends often played it together at Berkeley’s house in Little Venice. The composer once described the Palm Court Waltz as ‘not exactly a parody, though rhythms and melodies very close to the Viennese model will be recognised’. He said he had tried to incorporate these elements into his own musical idiom, ‘rather in the manner of Ravel, but not, I feel, nearly so well!’ The other two Berkeley duets are the Sonatina in E Flat, which he wrote for Sir Ashley Clarke, British Ambassador to Italy (who himself gave the first performance with Nini Straneo in the Villa Wolkonsky in Rome in 1959 ), and the Theme and Variations (1968), written for Gerald Stofsky and Annie Alt, who first played it in Stroud in 1971.
The new disc includes works by three of Berkeley’s English contemporaries, Constant Lambert (Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches), Richard Arnell, and Stephen Dodgson, whose splendidly-titled collection of eight brilliant duets, Tournament for Twenty Fingers, gives its name – and a wonderful CD cover – to the whole disc.
Of the two pianists, Emma Abbate, accompanist and chamber musician, is a professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and a staff coach at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Julian Perkins, keyboard player and conductor, is Artistic Director of Cambridge Handel Opera and Founder Director of Sounds Baroque. The couple made the recording in November 2020, during a relaxation of the Covid lockdown, at St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol – whilst simultaneously continuing their own careers, and home-schooling their two six-year-old boys; Julian Perkins will be writing about this juggling act in the 2023 Berkeley Society Journal. Reminding themselves that the piano duet originated as the medium for domestic music-making in England in the nineteenth century, when ‘hands-on concertgoers would explore the symphonic repertoire at home through keyboard arrangements, often in duet form’, they consciously aimed at recapturing an ‘attitude of playful intimacy’. In this way, as Julian puts it, the listener is drawn in to eavesdrop on music-making, rather than listening to a performance projected outwards. Tournament for Twenty Fingers comes on BIS-2578 SACD, available online at the special price of £11.78 until the end of September from Europadisc.
A magnificent choral work by Lennox Berkeley – long forgotten, and only once performed – has been re-discovered by the conductor Michael Waldron and given a world premiere recording on Orchid Classics which comes out on 14 July 2022.
Berkeley wrote his set of seven Variations on a Hymn by Orlando Gibbons for the English Opera Group in 1951, and dedicated it to Dorothy, Dowager Countess of Cranbrook. The work was given its first and only performance by the Aldeburgh Festival Choir and Orchestra, conducted by the composer, with Peter Pears as tenor soloist and the organist Ralph Downes, in Aldeburgh Parish Church on 21 June 1952. In 1981 it was published by Chester’s, but was never performed again, till Michael Waldron found the score last year, realised it was perfect for his London Choral Sinfonia, and recorded it with the tenor Andrew Staples in the Spring of this year. The piece runs for just under twenty minutes, and sounds like this.
Berkeley’s Gibbons Variations are joined on Orchid Classics ORC 101200 by three, more familiar, English works: Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs (with Roderick Williams as soloist) and Paul Drayton’s arrangement of the same composer’s The Lark Ascending (Elena Urioste, vioin) and Peter Warlock’s Capriole Suite. The disc is available for £12.25 at Presto Music.
Berkeley at the Razumovsky Academy
Three young musicians now living in Vienna are bringing to London next month a mixed programme of works by Lennox and Michael Berkeley. The performers are the Croatian mezzo-soprano Josipa Bainac, the Russian viola player Alexander Znamenskiy and the Czech pianist David Hausknecht. The Lennox Berkeley works are the third and sixth of the Piano Preludes, four songs (d’Un vanneur de blé, Lauds, Tant que mes yeux, d’Un fleuve and de Don Juan) and two pieces for viola and piano (Andantino and Duo). Michael Berkeley will introduce one of the ensemble’s four concerts. This one will take place at the Razumovsky Academy (56 College Road, NW10 5ET) on 15 February at 7.30 pm. The concert will open with Marietta’s Song from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, followed by the Lennox Berkeley pieces, then Britten’s Reflections for piano and viola, two songs by the Hungarian composer and bass Akos Banlaky, and the concert will end with a group of pieces by Michael Berkeley, including Echo: Homage à Francis Poulenc for piano and viola, and Haiku for piano solo. The ensemble is giving three other London concerts: at Bob Boas House, 22 Mansfield Street, WIG 9NR on 11 February; All Saints Church, West Dulwich, on 13 February; and the Austrian Cultural Forum, 28 Rutland Gate, SW7 1PQ, on 17 February. Further details of the Razumovsky concert can be found here.
Berkeley Music-making Returns
The Society is pleased to announce two Berkeley dates – one a violin recital, the other a concert of sacred choral works. On 15 November 2021 at 6.30pm the young violinist Emmanuel Bach and his accompanist Jenny Stern launches their new CD album, Lennox in Paris, with a concert in the Princess Alexandra Hall of the Royal Overseas League. Supported by the Lennox Berkeley Society, the album unites all Berkeley’s works for violin, and violin and piano, with music by other composers who were influential in Paris at the time Berkeley was studying with Nadia Boulanger. As a taster Emmanuel’s ROSL recital starts with Berkeley’s Sonatina Op. 17 of 1942, and includes Wienawski’s Fantaisie brillante on themes from Gounod’s ‘Faust’, Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps and Poulenc’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.
Ten days before that the Joyful Company of Singers (conductor, Peter Broadbent) performs Berkeley’s Mass for Five Voices at a concert called Lux Beata in St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico, on 4 November at 7pm. The programme includes sacred works by Brahms, Bruckner, John Rutter, Cecilia McDowall and Alexander Campkin, and the pianist Zoe Dixon plays pieces by Brahms and Schubert.
8 November 1938 – 24 March 2021
The prolific composer Richard Stoker, pupil of Lennox Berkeley, a founder member of the Berkeley Society, and ardent champion of his teacher's music, died in hospital in London, on 24 March, aged 82. Richard wrote a large number of works for his two favourite instruments, piano and guitar, together with operas, a piano concerto, three string quartets, three piano trios, song cycles, choral works, orchestral works and organ music. He was also an actor, appearing in more than a hundred films, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Dark Shadows and Last Christmas. A man of many parts, he also wrote two novels, three plays, short stories and poetry, and painted. Richard Stoker started playing the piano at six, and was composing at seven. After initial encouragement from Arthur Benjamin and Benjamin Britten, he studied under Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music, and under Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He was a professor of composition at the Royal Academy for twenty-six years, a tutor there too, and later became Hon. Treasurer of the Royal Academy of Music Guild. From 1969 to 1980 he edited Composer magazine. In an interview with John France for the MusicWeb International website, Richard said that Lennox Berkeley taught him to be himself, to develop his ideas, to write economically and to analyse the masters. Berkeley, he said, 'was a gentle, relaxed personality, showing incredible empathy'. He also had perfect taste and a remarkable wit, and all these qualities showed in every note of his music. Richard recalled that at the end of their lessons in the Berkeley's house in Warwick Avenue, they would both light up their pipes, and the study would fill with smoke. Lennox's favourite tobaccos were Balkan Sobrani and Four Square. 'When I introduced him to Baby's Bottom, he was in fits of laughter'. Michael Berkeley said that his father was enormously fond of Richard Stoker, and of 'the mix of innocence and curiosity which made both him and his music so idiosyncratic'.
William Wynne Willson's piano music website to be restored
One of the least known but most useful musical resources on the internet is a free archive of ready-to-use sheet music of neglected keyboard pieces for viewing, listening and downloading. The archive was curated in 2002 by Dr William Wynne Willson, mathematician, enthusiastic amateur pianist, and founding Webmaster of the Lennox Berkeley Society. But after his death in 2010 some of his music files disappeared, and it is only now, thanks to the efforts of his daughter, the soprano Emma Dogliani, and Thomas Daly, William's successor as Webmaster of the LBS site, that resource has been restored and returned to work online.
Emma, who is a loyal member of the Berkeley Society, is determined that the site should remain available free for everyone, as her father intended, but the cost of the administration, and of typesetting new additions to the archive, is proving daunting, and she has launched a Crowdfunding appeal to help. If you would like to contribute you can do so here.
But be sure, anyway, to visit and use the site at musicwww.co.uk. The 137 pieces of sheet music presently available were all chosen and typeset, sometimes transcribed, by William himself, and Emma has plans to rescue more of the lost files and to add others. The existing archive comprises, in the main, outstanding works by lesser-known composers (for example, the slow movements of sonatas by the English composer Geporge Pinto) or unknown works by better-known composers (for example, a charming Cantabile by Chopin). Necessarily confined to compositions in the public domain, the collection could not include any Berkeley, or any other contemporary works still in copyright.
The pieces range from two preludes and an esquisse by Alkan to Hugo Wolf's only published work, Wiegenlied. There are also three pieces by William himself: two rags and an In Nomine. In between are works by Bach, Fischer, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert and a set of variations by John Field aged 12, and lots more. There are also special collections – of clock music, duets with one easy part etc.
The site is simple to use. You choose your piece on the Full List tab, view it while listening to a synthesiser playback, with the cursor scanning the score simultaneously, and then download to run off on your printer.
William Wynne Willson was a remarkable man, not only a mathematician and computer expert, but also an accomplished keyboard player. He had a special fondness for the music of Berkeley and became an active and influential champion of his music. In an obituary in The Mathematical Gazette in November 2010, his colleague Tony Gardiner wrote of William's enthusiasm which never grew weary. 'He always saw the possibilities rather than the dangers; and in his hands the possibilities were immense and the dangers relatively few.' We in the Berkeley Society can confirm Tony Gardiner's words, that William's 'combination of insight, gentleness, open-mindedness and sheer humanity' were an inspiration and a support to musicians as well as mathematicians.
EITHNE HERBAGE, R. I. P.
The Lennox Berkeley Society is very sad to announce the death of one of its founder members, Mrs Eithne Herbage, a Patron of the Society, former composition pupil of Lennox Berkeley and teacher for many years at the Royal Academy of Music. She died in the Acton care home in Gunnersbury Lane, London, on the evening of 19 December, after a long illness, aged 93.
Eithne was a vital member of the Committee of the Society for many years, and it was through her contacts at the Royal Academy, and the esteem in which she was held there, that the Society was able to build the fruitful relationship which led to a series of annual Berkeley concerts there for four years in a row.
Even when she could no longer attend Committee meetings, she retained a deep interest in our activities, through the LBS Journal, and, more directly, through her fellow Committee member, Mrs Sidney Buckland, the Poulenc scholar, who became a valued friend and regular visitor to Eithne's flat in Devonshire Place. Eithne was also an unfailing source of information about Berkeley's music, which she admired unreservedly, and about his family life after the war.
Born on her father's farm at Trearddur Bay on the Isle of Anglesey, Eithne Herbage was the last survivor of seven long-lived siblings, one of them a nun. In 1945 she won a place at the Academy to study piano and composition, and became one of the first pupils of Lennox Berkeley, who had just left the BBC to devote himself full-time to teaching and composing. At first the lessons were at the Academy and then at the Berkeley home in Warwick Avenue. Recalling those years for the Journal in 2010, Eithne said she had never been out of Anglesey before coming to London at the age of eighteen, and entering the world of Lennox and Freda Berkeley was a magical experience which she never forgot.
Eithne was married briefly – to a cousin of the BBC producer Julian Herbage.
Given the current lockdown, the funeral will be a necessarily private affair in Anglesey, but it will be live-streamed for those who would like to watch it; dates to follow. Afterwards the ashes will be laid to rest in the family grave, under a Celtic cross.
HISTORIC RECORDING of a BERKELEY MASTERPIECE
SOMM Recordings are releasing a previously unpublished recording of the legendary contralto Katheen Ferrier singing one of Lennox Berkeley's finest works, the Four Poems of St Teresa of Avila. The orchestra is the LSO with the conductor Hugo Rignold, and the recording comes from a BBC broadcast on April 7 1952, the day after the same forces had performed the work to a well-filled Royal Festival Hall. In his programme note for SOMM, Sir Thomas Allen, a Trustee of the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, points out that the work provides yet another example of the conviction of Ferrier's faith, 'such is the passionate commitment of her attack'. This, he writes, is 'quite shattering for us, her audience. One is aware of a laser-like intensity, never losing sight at any time of the task that lies before her in delivering her message.' Berkeley wrote the St. Teresa Poems especially for Kathleen Ferrier, after hearing her sing Britten's Lucretia at Glyndebourne in 1946, and it was she who gave the first performance with the Goldsbrough String Orchestra conducted by Arnold Goldsbrough in the Concert Hall of Broadcasting House on 14 April 1948. The new CD, Kathleen Ferrier 20th Century British Treasures, includes works by Stanford, Rubbra, Ferguson, Wordsworth and Jacobson and shorter works by Parry, Quilter, Vaughan Williams, Bridge, Warlock, and Britten. Full details of the new CD, and how to buy it, can be found here.
KATHLEEN WALKER, R.I.P.
9 October 2020
The Lennox Berkeley Society is sad to announce the death of Mrs Kathleen Walker, co-Founder and Patron. Kathleen died after a fall at her home in Overstrand, near Cromer, Norfolk, on Tuesday morning, aged 97. A retired legal secretary, she had been living alone since the death of her husband, Pat, in 1984. Kathleen devoted the last two decades of her life to the promotion of Berkeley’s music, first as a valuable Committee member, and then – in a role she created for herself – as the Society’s periscope, scanning the internet horizons for new recordings and performances of Berkeley’s compositions.
Keenly musical, Kathleen was first drawn to Berkeley's work when she heard the orchestral Divertimentoon Radio Three in the mid-1980s. Still newly widowed, she found the melancholy second movement, 'Nocturne', particularly affecting, and sought out more Berkeley, starting with Christopher Headington's recording of some of the piano music. She then joined the British Music Society and, encouraged by the musicologist Dr Brian Trowell (formerly Heather Professor of Music at Oxford, and a leading light in the BMS), she decided to start a society to spread the word about Berkeley's music.
A notice in the BMS Newsletter brought a response from another enthusiast, Jim Nicol, and together the two formed The Lennox Berkeley Society. Approaching the Berkeley family for the first time, they invited Lady (Freda) Berkeley to become the founder Patron. Freda set to work recruiting members from her wide circle of friends, and on 9 December 2000 she hosted the Society's inaugural meeting in her flat in Bayswater. Sir John Manduell agreed to serve as founder President, and the young organist William Whitehead was elected founder Chairman.
That this small society should have achieved so much in twenty-one years is a tribute to the vision and dedication of Kathleen Walker – and of Jim Nicol (who died in January last year). Kathleen will be acutely missed for the example and inspiration of her selflessness, keen wit and the warmth of her interest in the Society's affairs. A full Obituary will appear in the Society's 2021 Journal.
Photo: Mrs Kathleen Walker, at the Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, Norfolk, in July 2019, on an outing with her devoted friends, Society members Tay Cheng-Jim and Neil Williamson (Photo Tay Cheng-Jim).
Songs for Sir John
The recorder player John Turner and other friends and associates of the late Sir John Manduell (composer, music administrator and founding President of the Lennox Berkeley Society) have produced a fine CD album in his memory. It’s called Songs for Sir John, and it comprises sixteen works by sixteen contemporary composers who have in some way found their professional careers guided and encouraged by Sir John's enthusiasm and support. The disc offers the world premiere recording of Berkeley’s set of three short duets for two recorders, played by John Turner and Laura Robinson. The same artists gave the first performance of these early pieces in Aldeburgh last autumn, and were to have played them again for our AGM this Spring, until the pandemic forced the postponement of the event. The set begins with ‘Moderato’ of 1938 and the recently-discovered ‘Minuet’ of 1924, which Berkeley wrote while he was an undergraduate at Oxford, and it ends with ‘Allegro’, completed in 1955. The first two have never been published independently, the last was published in 1955 in a version edited by Britten. All three will soon be published together by Boosey and Hawkes, in an edition by Michael Berkeley with ‘the expert guidance of John Turner.’ In a review on MusicWeb International John France describes the set as ‘a charming addition to both the recorder repertoire and Lennox Berkeley’s catalogue’. Also included on this new disc are pieces by two composers much influenced by Berkeley, Peter Dickinson (author of the definitive musical biography of the composer) and Sally Beamish, both Patrons of the Society. Songs for SirJohn ‘is an album to savour,’ writes John France. ‘There is nothing here that is overtly challenging, but much that is beautiful.’ The disc is available on the Divine Art Records label.
The long-delayed new release of Berkeley's opera Nelson, in the concert performance broadcast by BBC Radio Three in 1988, was due for release on the Nimbus label this autumn but has had to be postponed till 2021, as a result of the pandemic. In a development which will be welcomed by the Society and all lovers of Berkeley's music, the Nelson CD will come out with transcriptions of broadcast performances of his three other completed operas, all recorded off transmission by the enterprising founder of Lyrita Records, Richard Itter.
Lennox Berkeley Society Lockdown News
Despite the restrictions the Society is able to report a number of developments:
Berkeley Family Papers
The Berkeley Family Papers have been acquired by Britten Pears Arts (the name of the newly-merged Britten-Pears Foundation and Snape Maltings). This outstanding collection provides important sources for the study of the life and work of Lennox Berkeley, and the BPA is compiling a full and detailed catalogue of the archive, which will be made available to researchers both on site at the Red House and online at the Britten Pears Library website.
Right: Lennox Berkeley and Benjamin Britten, Blakeney Point, 1961
Chester Music are planning to publish a neglected choral work by Berkeley called Legacie, a setting for mixed voices of a poem by John Donne (pictured left) dealing with the confusions of love and parting. It will join Berkeley's other English choral settings, such as Spring at This Hour, There Was Neither Grass Nor Corn and The Midnight Murk. Legacie dates from 1943 when Berkeley was working for the BBC, and it may have been written for Fr McElligott's Wireless Singers who performed Berkeley's incidental music for a BBC drama called Yesterday and Today in April that year. The composer was feeling particularly isolated and vulnerable at this time because his new young friend, Peter Fraser, was away in Iceland with the RAF, and his thoughts may have been turning back to his previous relationship with Benjamin Britten (who was celebrating his 30th birthday that year). Matthew Berry, Choral Promotion Manager of Chester Music – and joint founder of the chamber choir Commotio which has sung so much Berkeley – found the work in the British Library. James Welland, Managing Editor of Chester Music, will oversee Legacie into print.
Chester Music's New Website
Chester Music have designed a new website which incorporates revised entries for all its composers, including Berkeley. Thomas le Brocq, Creative Manager (Back Catalogue and Opera), is hoping to incorporate articles from back numbers of the Lennox Berkeley Society Journal. The new Berkeley pages, which are still under development, can be seen here.
Boosey and Hawkes publish set of recorder pieces
Boosey and Hawkes have confirmed that that they will be publishing, as reported in the 2020 Berkeley Society Journal, the set of three Berkeley recorder pieces edited by John Turner (left) and Michael Berkeley. It is hoped they will come out at the same time as the release of John Turner's new CD which includes the first recorded performance of the set. The three pieces, all for a pair of treble recorders, were written at different times in Berkeley's life: Moderato (1938), Minuet (c.1924, discovered only last year), and Allegro (1938). Allegro was published by Boosey's in 1955, in a version edited by Britten, but the other two pieces have never been published before. The three pieces could be played by any two treble wind instruments, such as flutes or flute and oboe.
Songs for Sir John
John Turner's new CD, Songs for Sir John, is a tribute to his friend and associate, the composer and music administrator Sir John Manduell (the Society's first President, pictured right). It includes works by contemporary composers who have in some way found their professional careers guided and encouraged by Sir John's enthusiasm and support. They include two composers much influenced by Lennox Berkeley, Peter Dickinson (author of the definitive musical biography of the composer) and Sally Beamish. The CD will come out on the Divine Art Records label later this year.
Lennox Berkeley Society AGM and Annual Concert
The Society's AGM and annual concert which were to have been held in London in May have been postponed till after the general release from the Covid 19 lockdown. The recorder players John Turner and Laura Robinson and pianist Nathan Williamson have kindly signalled their readiness to play the Berkeley recorder set and the rest of their projected concert programme as soon as a new date can be rescheduled.
In the Stars
Members of the Society might be interested to know that there is a horoscope of Lennox Berkeley online (at star4cast.com), but it is concerned less with his music than with his emotional life. Compiled by the astrologer Marjorie Orr, it describes his marriage to Freda Bernstein as 'an impossible match that worked'. Lennox (born on 12 May 1903), was in the jargon of astromancy, 'a Sun Taurus with his Venus in Gemini conjunct Freda's Mars; and his Jupiter in Pisces conjunct her Uranus'. And Freda (born 25 May 1923) was 'an airy Sun Mercury in Gemini trine Saturn in Libra, sextile musical Neptune in Leo' with a 'steadfast and charming Venus in Taurus sextile Pluto and opposition Jupiter'. Since Freda also had 'a wide Yod of Saturn sextile Neptune in conjunct Uranus', Miss Orr maintains that she would have flourished in an unconventional setting. So, her reading concludes, there was 'a spark of passion and a sense of adventure between them'.
New recordings of Elegy and Toccata for violin and piano
SOMM Recordings has released a tribute to the flourishing of British violin sonatas in the 20th century. This CD includes Lennox Berkeley's Elegy (Op.33 No.2) and Toccata (Op.33 No.3, for Frederick Grinke) and other music for violin and piano by key figures of the modern chamber music renaissance in Britain. Making her debut on SOMM, violinist Clare Howick's championing of this repertoire prompted iclassical to declare "the record-buying public owe [her] a debt of gratitude". She is accompanied by pianist Simon Callaghan.
Harmoniemusik Presents Berkeley
The chamber group Harmoniemusik, of which Berkeley Society member Paul Guinery is pianist and occasional arranger, has programmed the Berkeley Flute Sonatina for a concert at the Letchworth Music Club on 12 February. The core players of the group, with Paul, are the flautist Janna Hüneke, Sarah Devonald playing oboe and recorder, the clarinettist Mark Lacey, and Alec Forshaw playing bassoon and harpsichord. Variety has always been a hallmark of their music-making and the Letchworth concert will be no exception. The programme opens with Poulenc's Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, dating from 1926 – the year he first met Berkeley (then just starting his long period of study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris). Then comes Berkeley's Sonatina, followed by Nino Rota's Trio for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano. In the second part: a chorale and aria by Bach, three songs by Gershwin arranged for wind quartet, the first movement of André Caplet's Quintet for Piano and Wind, and finally a potpourri from Sullivan's Savoy Operas arranged by Paul Guinery. Harmoniemusik believes in bringing alive a spirit of communication at all its concerts, so each member in turn will introduce the various pieces. The concert will take place at Howgills, the Society of Friends Meeting House, 42 South View, Letchworth Garden City SG6 3JJ, on 12 February 2020. It starts at 7.45, and tickets can be bought at the door.
Two Berkeley Premieres In The Red House
Two unpublished instrumental works by Lennox Berkeley were given their first public performance at the Alwyn Music Festival in Benjamin Britten's Red House at Aldeburgh on the evening of 9 October. Both are short duets for two treble recorders – one dating from Berkeley's undergraduate years at Oxford, the other from 1938 – and both were written for the composer to play with his godmother, Sybil Jackson. Next month's professional premiere will be given by the recorderists John Turner and Laura Robinson. Turner began his extraordinary musical life as a flute student at the Northern School of Music and a law student at Cambridge, then as a solicitor acting for musicians, and finally as a professional musician. He had known many musicians at Cambridge – among them Christopher Hogwood, John Eliot Gardiner, and David Munrow who launched his career as an instrumentalist in the pioneering Early Music Consort of London. Since then John Turner has commissioned and inspired hundreds of new works, as well as unearthing, editing and publishing many more scores which might otherwise have been lost to posterity, including a sonata by Handel, which he will play at the Red House. He will also be playing works written specially for him by Peter Dickinson and Elis Pekhonen, and a range of other twentieth-century and contemporary music; and the pianist Nathan Williamson played pieces by William Alwyn and Michael Berkeley. See here for further details.
Exciting new productions of Lennox Berkeley's one-act comic opera A Dinner Engagement took place in summer 2019. Both are student productions – one in London, the other in Amsterdam – and both will be staged in imaginative new pairings. At the Royal College of Music, the Opera School presented the Berkeley piece with Leonard Bernstein's dark one-acter Trouble in Tahiti, a candid portrait of the troubled marriage of a young couple in American suburbia. At the Conservatorium of Amsterdam, the Dutch National Opera Academy performed the Berkeley with Judith Weir's tense psychodrama, Blond Eckbert, about power, passion and redemption through love. The RCM performances took place in the Britten Theatre on 26, 28 and 29 June and 1 July. Tickets available here. The Dutch double bill took take place on 29 and 30 June and 2 and 3 July. Tickets are available here.
Conversations with Sir John Manduell
The record label Prima Facie has produced a remarkably comprehensive tribute to the late Sir John Manduell, composer, music administrator and founding president of the Lennox Berkeley Society. It takes the form of a beautifully-presented box set of six CDs – five containing conversations with Sir John, and the last one containing recordings of some of Sir John's works. The conversations are with Michael Berkeley, the recorder player John Turner, the conductor and organist Sir Philip Ledger, the late Christopher Yates, formerly Vice Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, and the arts administrator, conductor and trumpeter Gavin Henderson. In a vivid and spontaneous conversation with Michael Berkeley, Sir John recalls his composition studies with Sir Lennox, the ambience of the Berkeley household at 8 Warwick Avenue, London W. 2, and his years as programme director of the Cheltenham Festival, when Berkeley was president. In an introductory note, John Turner explains that the project took shape in 2005 when Sir John became too ill to compose. Friends suggested that he should write an autobiography but he decided to record some memories in audio form instead. Many but not all of the stories in these recordings re-appeared in the autobiography which Sir John did eventually publish, No Bartok Before Breakfast. 'Listeners', writes John Tuner, 'will enjoy in these discs Sir John's inimitable voice and his wily humour, and wonder at the amazing variety of ways in which music in Britain and Europe was nourished and energised by his magnetic personality.' The set is available at a cost of £20 on Prima Facie PFSWCD001-6. To find out more, and to place an order, members should visit the Prima Facie website.
Berkeley Day at Merton College Oxford
2 March 2019
To celebrate Berkeley's four years as an undergraduate at Merton (1922-6), and to mark the
30th anniversary of his death, Benjamin Nicholas (Director of Music at the College), Petroc
Trelawny (President, LBS), and Julian Berkeley arranged a Berkeley Day that took place on Saturday 2 March 2019. For full details, please download our programme.