Two Dinners

May 2019

Exciting new productions of Lennox Berkeley's one-act comic opera A Dinner Engagement are planned for the summer.  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 will present 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 will perform the Berkeley with Judith Weir's tense psychodrama, Blond Eckbert, about power, passion and redemption through love. The RCM performances will take place in the Britten Theatre on 26, 28 and 29 June and 1 July. Tickets available here. The Dutch double bill will take place on 29 and 30 June and 2 and 3 July. Tickets are available here.

Conversations with Sir John Manduell

May 2019

Conversations with Sir John Manduell album cover

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.

A Berkeley First

October 2018

Lennox Berkeley Complete Piano Works album cover

The only complete recording of all Berkeley's piano music has just come out on two brilliant new discs under the Hoxa label. It's a magnificent collection of forty-seven separate pieces — from the March which Berkeley wrote for his friend, Vere Pilkington, in 1924 (when both were undergraduates at Oxford), to the Mazurka Op. 101 no. 2, written for the 250th anniversary of the birth of Haydn in 1982. The pianist is the Berkeley scholar, organist and composer, Douglas Stevens, whose doctoral thesis at the University of Bristol focused on the music of Berkeley. Stevens proves to be a sensitive and polished interpreter, with a virtuoso technique that makes light of some fiendishly difficult music. He plays the tumbling runs of the Four Concert Studies, for example, with a bravura that all but takes the breath away. Berkeley wrote these studies in 1940, and admitted to his friend Benjamin Britten that he himself could not play a bar of any of them. Stevens is no less compelling in the more reflective pieces, bringing to the Paysage of 1944 a sad tenderness that evokes the composer's deep feelings for France. In a review for the British Music Society, Alan Cooper writes that Hoxa's two CDs 'are a marvellous introduction to Berkeley's piano music presented by an artist thoroughly at home with this music'. In a review for the forthcoming issue of the Lennox Berkeley Society Journal, the Berkeley scholar and pianist, Professor Peter Dickinson, writes of Stevens's 'phenomenal technique' and 'dazzling finger-work'. This is an essential recording for anyone interested in exploring Berkeley's prolific and varied output for the piano. Lennox Berkeley: The Complete Piano Works (Hoxa HS1806-18) is available through Amazon as a double CD, or a download.

You can listen to two audio samples from the album here:

Four Concert Studies Digital download icon Play icon (from Lennox Berkeley: The Complete Piano Works)

Paysage Digital download icon Play icon (from Lennox Berkeley: The Complete Piano Works)


Berkeley Rarities at the Wigmore

September 2018

The baritone Benjamin Appl and the pianist Graham Johnson will be including some rarely-heard Berkeley songs in their evening recital at the Wigmore Hall in London on Thursday 11 October. The programme explores the continuing impact of the ancient culture of Greece, charting a course between gods and mythology, philosophy and love poetry. Beginning and ending with Schubert, the anthology also includes songs by Fauré, Duparc, Debussy and Britten. The Berkeley songs are from the set of Three Greek Songs which he wrote in 1951. The first is 'To Aster' (setting a text by Plato) and the second is 'Spring Song' (Antipater). Tickets are available here.

Baritone Benjamin Appl (left) and the pianist Graham Johnson (right)

Baritone Benjamin Appl (left) and the pianist Graham Johnson (right)

The late Sir John Manduell, C.B.E.

November 2017

The composer and music administrator Sir John Manduell, who died on 25 October, was not only a leading figure in British music for nearly sixty years, but the founding president of the Lennox Berkeley Society, and one of Berkeley’s most effective advocates. Born in Johannesburg he studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, the University of Strasbourg, and the Royal Academy of Music, where his composition teacher was Lennox Berkeley. After joining the BBC as a music producer in 1956 John Manduell went on to plan the new Music Programme which replaced the old Third Programme (and would soon become Radio Three).

Sir John Manduell's 2016 Memoir

Sir John Manduell's 2016 Memoir

The BBC’s intention was that the new service should be ‘kept firmly in the “middlebrow” range’ – hence an instruction from the Controller of the Home Service, ‘No Bartók before breakfast’ (a telling tag which Manduell borrowed as the title of his book of memoirs published by Arc last year).  On leaving the Corporation in 1968 he became the first Director of Music at the University of Lancaster and, in 1971, the first Principal of the new Royal Northern College of Music, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. For a full quarter of a century, from 1969, Sir John was also Programme Director of the Cheltenham Festival, during which time he commissioned no fewer than 250 new works. For the last six of his Cheltenham years, Lennox Berkeley served as President of the festival, and in 1983 Manduell celebrated his old mentor’s eightieth birthday by inviting fifteen former pupils to write a variation of not more than one minute each on a theme from ‘The Reaper’s Chorus’ in Berkeley’s opera, Ruth. Manduell himself edited the contributions into a cohesive whole and added his own introduction to what he called Bouquet for Lennox. Throughout those Cheltenham years Berkeley’s music was constantly featured at the festival, whilst Manduell’s own work was more often heard at the Cardiff Festival. And when Manduell retired from Cheltenham, it was Lennox’s son, Michael, who succeeded him. In a letter of condolence to Sir John’s widow (the pianist and teacher, Renna Kellaway), our President, Petroc Trelawny, and Chairman, Adam Pounds, wrote that without Sir John’s support and enthusiasm the Berkeley Society could not have grown into the ‘vigorous, passionate organisation’ that it is today. ‘From the start he encouraged us to be ambitious and broad-thinking in our efforts to promote the musical legacy of his teacher. Many of the grander projects we took on - our disc of Lennox’s songs, the partnership with the Royal Academy of Music, and last year’s Stabat Mater tour and CD - were a direct result of his determination that we should set ourselves high goals.’ In an affectionate memoir of his time as a student of Berkeley, Sir John told readers of the Society’s 2012 Journal that he regarded his teacher at that time as holding ‘a near-divine pre-eminence’. Berkeley was, he wrote, ‘one of this country’s most admired and distinctive composers.’ It would surely have pleased Sir John that Lennox and Freda Berkeley thought just as highly of him, both professionally and personally. TS

Roy Teed (1928-2017)

November 2017

The life and work of our distinguished old friend, the composer, teacher and accompanist Roy Teed – a founder member of the Lennox Berkeley Society – who died in Colchester on 17 June, aged 89, are to be celebrated by the Colchester Symphony Orchestra at a concert this coming spring. After national service with the RAF, Roy studied composition with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music. He greatly admired his teacher, whose Christian name he gave to his own son, Paul Lennox, and he remained close to Lennox and Freda for the rest of their lives. Members of the Society will remember Roy’s warm and appreciative presence at annual meetings, which he always marked by presenting a bouquet to Freda Berkeley. After leaving the Academy he returned to teach there, and later at the Colchester Institute School of Music, where, some thirty years ago, he established the annual Roy Teed competition for student composers. For many years he accompanied the baritone Norman Tattersall in a duo partnership which gave concerts all over the UK and on Radio Three. In the early 1950s he and Tattersall and the composer Francis Routh founded the Redcliffe Concerts of British Music. Roy was also involved in the early days of Colchester New Music, and served as president – and cheerleader - of the Colchester Symphony Orchestra.  His prolific output as a composer ranged from songs (often written for Norman Tattersall, and setting texts by their mutual friend James Kirkup), and choral works to an opera (The Overcoat), concertos for piano and recorder, and chamber works. The Roy Teed Memorial Concert will be given by the Colchester Symphony Orchestra in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester, at 7.30pm on 21st April 2018, a few days before what would have been his ninetieth birthday. The programme will include Roy Teed’s own Phantasy for Flute and Strings, the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello and the Symphony No 7 by Sibelius. Ticket information can be found on the Colchester SO website.

Roy Teed with (l to r) daughter Lucy, wife Jennifer and daughter Trudy, Colchester Buddhist Centre, 2015

Roy Teed with (left to right) daughter Lucy, wife Jennifer and daughter Trudy, Colchester Buddhist Centre, 2015

Berkeley with a punch

18 August 2017

Lennox Berkeley in 1960 (photo BBC)

Lennox Berkeley in 1960 (photo BBC)

The Society’s current trawl of Berkeley performances on YouTube has yielded a delightful discovery: the Overture in B Flat, performed by Marcus Dods and the Ulster Orchestra, and recorded off-air from the 1980s Radio 3 series Matinée Musicale. Scored for full symphony orchestra, it makes for an exciting curtain-raiser, with lively alternating solo motifs for all sections, engaging melodic lines and driving rhythmic energy, packing a hugely invigorating punch - all in just six minutes. Berkeley wrote three orchestralOvertures. As Tony Scotland records in his Lennox and Freda, the first was started at his flat in Paris in the autumn of 1934. In January 1935 he learned that it had been chosen ‘to represent English modernism’ at the International Society of Contemporary Music Society festival at Carlsbad in Czechoslavia in September. After attending the première there, Berkeley travelled to London the following month to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestrain the work’s British premiere at the Proms. It was not a success, but the ISCM’s selection board – including the English conductor and champion of new music, Edward Clark, and the German conductor Hermann Scherchen – rated the work sufficiently highly to programme a second appearance at the next ISCM Festival in Barcelona in May 1936. In Berkeley’s view, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra gave ‘a brilliant performance’ there, and The Times critic Peter Burra agreed: the new Overture, he wrote, was  ‘delightfully written, with some dazzling orchestration’. Berkeley’s publishers, J. & W. Chester, recognised what they called ‘lines of genius’ in the writing, and ramped up their promotional campaign on his behalf. However Berkeley later withdrew this first Overture.Writing in his diary in the 1970s, he said, ‘[My contribution to the Barcelona Festival] was  an Overture that I came to dislike, and later suppressed.  I can’t remember a note of it today.’At the end of the war he composed a second orchestral Overture. It’s very light and rather gay,’ he wrote to his wife, Freda – ‘in complete contrast to the Nocturne’. He wrote it for the conductor Anthony Bernard (who had been an early champion of his music) and Bernard’s chamber orchestra, but shortly after its first performance, in Canterbury Cathedral in June 1947, Berkeley disowned this second Overturetoo.The YouTube Overture is a third piece which Berkeley wrote for the BBC Light Music Festival in 1959, when it was played by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Vilem TauskyChester’s publish all three Berkeley Overtures.  JLB

Berkeley’s Old School Remembers Him

8 August 2017

Gresham’s School, Holt, in Norfolk – alma mater of Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and, before all of them, our own Lennox Berkeley – has built a spectacular new music school. Officially opening the new development on 1 July, the Princess Royal named it The Britten Building, in memory of the composer who was a pupil there from 1928 to 1930. Julian Berkeley, second son of Sir Lennox, visited the Britten Building later in July at the invitation of the new Director of Music, John Bowley, and reported enthusiastically that it offers every conceivable facility for music teaching, with modern and comfortable practice, seminar and teaching rooms; a 140-seat auditorium; Steinway pianos; a sophisticated recording studio; and even a café. The building is the culmination of a multi-million pound, five-year project to improve the musical provision at Gresham’s, and is the most significant addition to the school in twenty years. The intention is to make it available not only to the boys and girls of Gresham’s but to music groups throughout North Norfolk.  'Music is the soul of Gresham’s’, the headmaster, Douglas Robb, said at the opening ceremony, 'and the school has a much-celebrated musical history and an exciting future.’ Mr Robb hoped the new building would allow the school 'to nurture those with a musical talent, and help make a lasting difference to our community for many years to come’. Lennox Berkeley was a pupil at Gresham’s throughout the years of the First World War. Through no fault of the school’s he was not happy away from home. When his parents brought him back to Oxford at the age of only fifteen, he left behind at Gresham’s a reputation for charm and kindness, fluent French and a ‘flamboyant’ style at the piano. For its part the school’s legendary Director of Music, Walter Greatorex, nurtured Lennox’s budding talent for music, and introduced him to hymns and to Plainsong (which was later to influence not only his music but also his faith). The school also introduced Lennox to a part of England he never forgot. Attracted by the wild beauty of the North Norfolk coast and its flora and fauna, he and his wife Freda bought a holiday home in the village of Morston half a century later, and the family still has strong connections – and a sailing boat – there today. To commemorate Berkeley’s years at Gresham’s, the music department has decided to name one of the seminar suites in the new music school the Sir Lennox Berkeley Room. As a former freelance tenor familiar with the music of Berkeley, John Bowley is eager to forge links not only with the family but with the Berkeley Society and the Berkeley Ensemble; and he and Julian discussed the possibility of various exciting collaborations including concerts and Study Days in the grand new music school.  TS

The Britten Building, Gresham's School

Lennox Berkeley Society launches on social media

3 August 2017

Thanks to the efforts of LBS Committee members Paul Cott and Thomas Daly, the Lennox Berkeley Society now has:

All three are proving their worth, opening up world-wide means of disseminating the exchange of news, events and activities, and enabling contact between musicians, audiences and others with a common interest in the music of Lennox Berkeley. Do please use these new media channels: you'll be amazed at the extent and quality of Berkeley activity.

Stabat Mater disc shortlisted for Gramophone Awards

1 August 2017

Stabat Mater CD

The long-awaited world premiere recording of Lennox Berkeley’s masterpiece, the Stabat Mater, sponsored by the Lennox Berkeley Society and released by Delphian Records in June 2016, has been shortlisted for the 2017 Gramophone Awards. The CD is available from Presto Classical. The recording was made by conductor, Berkeley specialist (and former Berkeley Society Chairman) David Wordsworth with the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble in the new Britten Studio at the Snape Maltings, the day after a performance in Blythburgh Parish Church on Good Friday. As part of an ambitious project conceived and masterminded by the Society, there was a subsequent performance at the Spitalfields Festival in Shoreditch Church on 7 June (later broadcast on Radio Three, introduced by the Society’s President, Petroc Trelawny, and including a revealing interview with Michael Berkeley), and there will be a further performance at the Cheltenham Festival at 4pm on Sunday 17 July in the Pittville Pump Room, preceded at 3pm by a discussion including Petroc Trelawny and Michael Berkeley. The Stabat Mater, commissioned by Benjamin Britten for an English Opera Group tour with Peter Pears in 1947, is seldom programmed because of its unconventional scoring. The Shoreditch performance was hailed by the Sunday Times on 12 June as ‘downright astonishing’.  Don’t miss the recording! Also on the disc are: Lennox Berkeley’s Mass for Five Voices, written for the choir of Westminster Cathedral, and his motet Judica Me, with Michael Berkeley’s rapturous meditation on Monteverdi and Purcell, Touch Light, for soprano and counter-tenor soloists and string orchestra.

Marian Consort and Berkeley Ensemble perform Lennox Berkeley's Stabat Mater

The Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble accepting the applause after Stabat Mater (conducted by David Wordsworth) at the Spitalfields Festival on 7 June 2016

A Dinner Engagement at Cambridge University

May 2017

Dinner Engagement Cambridge University Opera Society poster

Cambridge University Opera Society is staging a production of Berkeley's one-act comedy A Dinner Engagement at Fitzpatrick Hall, Queen's College, on Saturday 24th June, at the end of May Week. It's believed to be the first time the piece has been performed in Cambridge. The producer, Anna Semple, describes the opera as 'a frothy, delightful tale of love amongst the vegetables', as the impoverished Lord and Lady Dunmow prepare dinner for the rich and eligible Prince Philippe to whom they hope to marry their daughter - but 'absolutely everything goes terribly wrong'. Anna promises 'a colourful new take on Berkeley's very modern modern opera', in which despite the dramas, the first buds of young love start to open'. The musical director will be Stephanie Childress; casting is still in progress. Tickets are available through

Lennox Berkeley Society Award for Guitar 2017

January 2017

Lennox Berkeley Society Award for Guitar 2017 entrants

Emma Smith (left), Ioannis Theodoridis, Emmanuel Sowicz and Gary Ryan (right)

The class for the seventh Award for Guitar was held at Headington School, Oxford on January 29. Three guitarists took part: Ioannis Theodoridis, Emma Smith and Emmanuel Sowicz.

Ioannis played first, and began with Michael Berkeley's beautiful little Impromptu. This was given a sensitive, nuanced account with good melodic line and balance of the outer voices. There followed Lennox's Theme and Variations, Op. 77. The music was well-shaped and the variations effectively constructed: a performance showing precision and elegance, and the epilogue just right.

Emma played next, performing the Sonatina Op. 52. Her playing was well-articulated with good clear tone. In the first movement, the subjects were considerately beated. The Lento was well-shaped with some delicate touches, and her pizzicato technique was subtle. The Rondo theme of the last movement was well-expressed, and Emma showed an excellent tremolo technique. The expressive melodic episode was slower than usual, but effective for that choice. All in all an individual, interesting version of a work that is probably the most difficult of the solo guitar works by Lennox Berkeley.

Emmanuel Sowicz performed the Quatre Pièces of 1927 or 1928. He played very well, giving to each movement a strong sense of purpose, and a feeling of coherence to the whole work. Particular assets were strong sense of rhythm, wide dynamic range and beautiful tone. The Sarabande was an expressive highlight. Hearing the pieces on this occasion really showed how well Lennox wrote for the guitar even at the beginning of his career.

The guitarists were glad to receive the comments of Gary Ryan, whose adjudication combined expertise and encouragement. The award went to Ioannis, but Gary felt that each of the players were worthy of it.

This class was a particular pleasure in that all of Lennox's solo guitar music was presented.

Christopher Daly

A Berkeley Feast at St. John's Smith Square

January 2017

Olivia Ray

Olivia Ray

The New London Orchestra conductor Ronald Corp will be performing two of Lennox Berkeley’s most popular works in a programme of Mozart and Elgar at St. John’s Smith Square, London, on Wednesday 1 March at 7.30.

The concerns opens with Mozart’s motet Sancta Maria, in which the orchestra will be joined by the London Chorus, and the Missa Brevis, with soloists Olivia Ray, Augusta Hebbert, Alessandro Fisher and Joseph Kennedy. Then comes Elgar’s Sea Pictures, in an arrangement for choir and strings by Donald Fraser. And the programme is completed by Berkeley’s Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila and the Serenade for Strings.

The soloist in the Teresa Songs will be the mezzo-soprano Olivia Ray, who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, English National Opera's programme for young opera singers, The Knack, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In recent seasons Olivia has made her mark at Grange Park Opera as Flora in La Traviata, Enrichetta di Francia in I Puritani and Soeur Mathilde in Dialogues des Carmélites. Berkeley won’t be unfamiliar territory, although the roles are as far apart as can be imagined: in 2004 she sang the part of Mrs Kneebone in the one-acter A Dinner Engagement on an East Anglian tour with Opera East.

Tickets for the St John’s concert cost £20, £15 and £10 and are available from the Box Office by telephone at 020 7222 1061.

A Berkeley Harpsichord Premiere

December 2016

Richard Itter

Christopher Lewis

A harpsichord suite which Lennox Berkeley wrote when he was 27 has been found in the Berkeley manuscript collection at the British Library and published for the first time by Chester Music. The Suite for the Harpsichord dates from the middle of Berkeley’s studentship with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1930, and is dedicated to his friend, the amateur harpsichordist Vere Pilkington, for whom he wrote a number of earlier keyboard works while they were both at Oxford In the Twenties.  The work has been edited by the young harpsichordist Christopher D. Lewis, who gave what is thought to have been the world premiere at Mottisfont in October. It’s in five distinct movements, starting with a powerful ‘Lento’ and ending with a tuneful ‘March’; it lasts about a quarter of an hour. The new publication costs £8.99 and is available from Chester Music.


October 2016

Bazouker Cover

Lennox Berkeley’s paternal grandfather and namesake is the subject of a handsome new book by Tony Scotland. All families have a black sheep, some can rustle up a whole flock. In a recorded history stretching back to the Anglo-Saxons, the Berkeleys of Berkeley Castle have fielded more than their fair share of cads. One was involved in the murder of Edward II, another sparked a war with America, a third falsified the records to try to prove his children were legitimate, and two gave the castle away to spite their next of kin. One of the family’s most colourful scoundrels was Captain Lennox Berkeley, the 7th earl. Wife-stealer, Bashi-Bazouk and Redshirt, chronic gambler and zither-player, he died a bankrupt and outlaw, leaving three sons, only one of whom was legitimate. The eldest, Hastings, became a captain in the Royal Navy (and father of Sir Lennox), the second, Ernest, was a British Consul, and the third, Randal – the only legitimate son – inherited the earldom, the castle and a vast fortune. On Randal’s death without issue the title fell into dormancy, and the castle was willed to distant cousins. Tony Scotland, author of a biography of the composer (Lennox & Freda, Michael Russell Publishing, 2010), has pieced together the few remaining records to tell the story of the Berkeleys’ most elusive black sheep.

BAZOUKER: The untold scandals of Captain Lennox Berkeley, 7th Earl of Berkeley is designed by Libanus Press and published by Shelf Lives. A slim volume of 64 pages, with 18 photographs and a new Berkeley Pedigree, it is available on at £15 plus postage, but Tony Scotland is offering a special price of £10 including postage for members of the Lennox Berkeley Society. Please contact the publisher at Shelf Lives through

Berkeley's Shakespeare Music

September 2016

Peggy Ashcroft as Paulina (second left) in Peter Wood's production of The Winter's Tale at Straford in 1960

Peggy Ashcroft as Paulina (second left) in Peter Wood's production of The Winter's Tale at Straford in 1960

Incidental music which Lennox Berkeley wrote for a production of The Winter’s Tale at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford in 1960 has been revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company for a concert of modern British Shakespeare music in London, later this month. It’ll be played by the Southbank Sinfonia (conductor Simon Over) in a programme including Vaughan Williams’ music for Richard II and Rubbra’s for Macbeth.  Guest actors taking part in the concert include Patricia Hodge, David Threlfall and Samuel West. The concert will take place at St John’s, Smith Square, starting at 7.30 pm and in a pre-concert talk at 6.30 pm, Bruce O'Neil, Head of Music at the RSC will reveal more about the company’s mission to bring its historic scores back to life. A suite of nine movements from The Winter’s Tale score was published by Chester Music in 1962. Berkeley also wrote incidental music for a production of The Tempest at Stratford in 1946, and Decca recorded some of the songs from it. Scores of both these Shakespeare settings can be found at the British Library.

Berkeley Treasures from Lyrita

September 2016

Richard Itter

Richard Itter right, with Sir Adrian Boult, the conductor who played a significant role in his move into orchestra recording

Continuing their releases of the Itter Broadcast Collection, Lyrita Records have just brought out a new CD [REAM1129] of three major Berkeley religious works, in performances which were originally broadcast on BBC Radio Three and have never been commercially available before. The first work on the new disc is the Stabat Mater (1947), performed by soloists of the Ambrosian Singers with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Norman Del Mar, in the Friends’ Meeting House, London, and broadcast in 1965. This will be particularly interesting in the light of our own, Lennox Berkeley Society, CD of the same work recorded by Delphian with the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble conducted by David Wordsworth. Read John Quinn’s fascinating review, comparing both recordings - and buy the disc - on the Music Web International website. The second work on the Lyrita disc is the cantata, Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God (1962), with the soprano Felicity Harrison, the organist Donald Hunt, the BBC Northern Singers and members of the BBC Northern Sympthony Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and broadcast in 1963; this was the work’s UK premiere, the first performance having taken place in New York with the Riverside Church Choir, which commissioned it. And the third work is the world premiere of  the Magnificat (1967-8), with the Choirs of St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Berkeley himself, in St Paul’s Cathedral, and broadcast in 1968.  All three broadcasts were recorded off transmission by the enterprising founder of Lyrita, Richard Itter, on professional equipment he installed at his home in Burnham. These are just three of some 1500 British works he recorded  from 1952 to 1996 - broadcasts which, but for Richard Itter, would have been lost to history. In 2014 the Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust begun to transfer this priceless archive, and has now put in place formal agreements with the BBC and the Musicians Union to enable the public release of items from it. Read more about Richard Itter and the Lyrita project on the Lyrita website.

Stabat Mater recording is 'a major statement'

July 2016


David Wordsworth

David Wordsworth

To mark the release of Delphian's stunning CD of Berkeley's great Stabat Mater, recorded in Blythburgh on Good Friday, the conductor David Wordsworth has given an interview about the work on the Presto Classical website.  He describes the Stabat Mater as showing not only Berkeley's 'very particular voice', but 'a rather more passionate and intense side of his musical character'. It really is, he tells Katherine Cooper, 'a major statement'. Read the full interview, describing the birth of the Society's Stabat Mater project, Wordsworth's determination to use a vocal ensemble that blends with the instrumentalists, and his ideas for future Berkeley recordings.

And to take advantage of a special introductory offer for the purchase of the new disc, press 'More' at the foot of the interview, which will take you to the Presto shop. The offer expires on August 31, 2016.

'A searing and expert performance'

July 2016


Delphian's recording of Berkeley's Stabat Mater has been warmly received by the music critic John Quinn, in a thoughtful review on the widely-respected website, Music Web International.


The Marian Consort

The Marian Consort

Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Stabat Mater, Op 28 (1947) [32:17]
Mass for Five Voices, Op 64 (1964) [13:45]
Judica me, Op 96 No 1(1978) [7:19]
Michael BERKELEY (b. 1948)
Touch Light (2005) [7:35]
The Marian Consort/Rory McCleery; Berkeley Ensemble/David Wordsworth
rec. 26-29 March 2016, The Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh
Latin texts and English translations included
DELPHIAN DCD34180 [60:59]

Religious music was an important strand in Lennox Berkeley’s compositional output – he became a Roman Catholic in 1929 – though it was only in the 1940s that he started to compose music for liturgical use.

One of his most important religious works was his setting of the Stabat Mater. I’m not entirely sure if the present recording is its first – in his excellent notes David Wordsworth says it has “never [been] recorded on CD” - but I rather suspect this is the first recording. On the face of it that’s a surprise since the work is eloquent and important. However, Wordsworth tells us that the score was neglected after a 1953 Aldeburgh Festival performance until the mid-1970s so it clearly fell out of fashion. I wonder if part of the reason is the forces required. It is scored for six voices (SSATBB) and I’m sure it could only be performed by six solo voices – and very good ones at that - since a larger group of singers would upset the equilibrium with the accompaniment. The instrumental forces comprise a woodwind quintet, string quartet, double bass, harp and percussion. It seems to me that one of Berkeley’s many achievements in this score is to transcend the ‘limitations’ of the fairly small forces; often the work seems to be a bigger piece.

The medieval Latin text is here divided into ten short movements. Berkeley varies his forces imaginatively so that the full ensemble is only needed in the first and last movements. Elsewhere there are two movements for vocal quartet. There’s a duet for two sopranos in the second movement and for the rest solo voices are employed. I mentioned Berkeley’s ability to make his music sound bigger than the forces involved. We get a case of that in the opening movement. Here, after a somewhat cool instrumental introduction the writing becomes altogether more intense, especially at the passage beginning ‘Cujus animam gementem’.

Later on, the fourth movement ‘Pro peccatis’ is sung by a vocal quartet and the writing for both the singers and instrumentalists is very dramatic; there’s plenty of tension in both the music and the performance. The following movement, ‘Eia, Mater’ is a tenor solo containing music of intense lyricism. Benedict Hymas does this very well indeed. There’s plangent and strongly focused singing from Rory McCleery in the seventh movement, an alto solo (‘Fac me tecum pie flere’). The section that follows, ‘Virgo virginum praeclara’ is for SATB quartet and the instruments are silent for almost the entire movement; here the vocal writing features very close harmonies. The last movement, ‘Christe, cum sit hinc exire’, reunites the full ensemble, starting with an extended instrumental introduction – as in the opening section. Here the singers exhibit great commitment, delivering a deeply-felt performance. For the last minute or so the music becomes much more subdued and attains a gentle radiance which brings the work to a very satisfying conclusion.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the Stabat Mater before but I have no hesitation in saying that it’s a marvellous work. Berkeley responds to the text with great feeling and sensitivity and though inevitably the tone is very serious there’s no want of variety in the music. The score’s cause is helped by the fact that it receives a searing and expert performance. This may be the work’s debut on disc but it’s been worth the wait to hear it in a performance of such quality.

The Mass for Five Voices (SSATB), in which the Marian Consort is directed by Rory McCleery, was composed for the choir of Westminster Cathedral in 1964. David Wordsworth points out that its composition came during an extended period in which Berkeley “experimented liberally with twelve-note procedures”. Perhaps that accounts for the austere, even astringent nature of some of the writing. I would imagine that the Westminster choir found it a challenge although doubtless the challenges were successfully met under the guidance of Colin Mawby, then the Director of Music. The music is often unsettled and I have to say that I found it music that I admired but did not find it easy to come to terms with. I rather suspect I would find it easier to assimilate if the movements were heard individually in a liturgical context. The movement which exerted the strongest appeal for me was the Agnus Dei where the writing has a grave beauty and achieves a very gratifying sense of repose.

A much stronger appeal to the senses is exerted by the a capella motet Judica me (SSATBB) which was composed for the 1978 Three Choirs Festival. This is a setting of verses from Psalm 42. David Wordsworth rightly draws attention to echoes of Poulenc, especially near the start. The harmonies are often searching, though often warm, and the vocal lines flow beautifully. I imagine that the piece was intended for performance by a full choir – probably at Evensong – but the use of just six voices here ensures that the part writing is heard with tremendous clarity. For the most part the music is reflective and prayerful in tone though Berkeley is briefly joyful at ‘Confitebor tibi in cithara, Domine’ (‘I will sing your praises on the cithara, O God’). This lovely piece receives a super performance here. My only slight regret is that the companion piece, Ubi caritas et amor was not also included – the two were published together as Op. 96.

To complete the programme we hear a single work by Lennox Berkeley’s son, Michael. Touch Light, for which he provided his own text, was written for the Tetbury Festival in 2005 to celebrate a marriage. It’s scored for soprano and alto soloists (Zoë Brookshaw and Rory McCleery) and string quintet. This is the only piece on the disc for which the text is not, at first sight, provided. In fact, it’s contained within the notes, so all is well. The two singers are given rapturous lines to sing against what is a kind of ground bass accompaniment from the strings. Here, the singing is ecstatic, both soloists offering great intensity. This piece by Berkeley fils is a fine complement to his father’s music.

This is a very important disc in that it presents an unjustly neglected English vocal work of the highest quality; furthermore, the performance is superb. Indeed, all are top quality and if my admiration is greatest for the setting of Stabat Mater the music that constitutes the remainder of the programme is also distinguished. Previously I’ve only heard The Marian Consort in Tudor consort music but here they prove themselves equally adept in twentieth century repertoire while the Berkeley Ensemble make a fine contribution also.

It’s very fitting that the recording should have been made at the Snape Maltings for it was Benjamin Britten who prompted Berkeley to write the Stabat Mater. Many of the previous Delphian discs I’ve heard have been recorded in churches but the results obtained in this secular venue are just as impressive. The sound is clear, vivid and expertly balanced.

Admirers of Lennox Berkeley’s music should put this disc at the top of their shopping list

These artists will be offering a rare chance to hear a live performance of the Stabat Mater in a concert at the Cheltenham Music Festival on Sunday, 17 July 2016. The programme will also include Touch Light: (details here).

© John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Reproduced by kind permission of John Quinn and Music Web International (the largest non-commercial classical music resource on the web, which posts ten new reviews each weekday at

Mexican guitar Sonatina video released

June 2016

The guitarist Jesús Martinez Garnica approached the Society in 2015 with the idea of making a video recording of the Sonatina Op. 52 no.1. With help and encouragement from the Society, the project went ahead and the delightful result is shown here.

Jesús was born in Mexico City in 1988 and began playing the guitar at the age of 13. He went on to study with Juan Carlos Laguna, and has attended masterclasses with David Russell, Carlos Bonell and other distinguished guitarists. Jesús has performed as soloist with orchestras, and in 2013 won the soloist competition of the Escuela Nacional de Musica.

He is working on another audiovisual project called Paisage virtual sonoro, which intends to bring classical music to a new, young audience by combining landscape, music and cinema.

BMS special offer on Terroni's Berkeley CD

May 2016

Music for Solo Piano and Piano Duet by Lennox Berkeley. BMS 416CD

The British Music Society has a small remaining stock of the original issue of the recording by Raphael Terroni and Norman Beedie of piano music by Lennox Berkeley for solo and duet, on BMS 416CD, and the Hon. Treasurer of the BMS, Stephen Trowell, who is a member of our own Society, has offered to let us have this disc, while stocks last, at the special price of £5 a copy, including UK postage (overseas postage details on application). If you would like to order, please send an email to stephentrowell43 at gmail dot com. Reviewing the CD in the Gramophone in 1994, Peter Dickinson said, 'This is some of the finest British piano music of the century'. Our foundress, Kathleen Walker, has long been an admirer of the artistry of the late Raphael Terroni, and she points out that this original disc would make a welcome present for any musician.

Two new Berkeley recordings released

April 2016

British Harpsichord Music

Two new CDs of rarely heard works by Lennox Berkeley have just become available. One is a recording of his 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 current 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.

Edmund Rubbra complete chamber music

The other new recording is on Lyrita SRCD353: 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 new Berkeley Society Journal.

First Symphony takes to the skies in memory of Lady Berkeley

April 2016

Emirates Airlines aircraft

World travellers flying by Emirates will soon have the chance to hear music by Lennox Berkeley. In a concert of music by teachers and their pupils, the composer and broadcaster Chris de Souza, who has presented the airline's Classical Channel for twenty-five years, has programmed the 'Lento' movement from the First Symphony - and dedicated it to the memory of Freda Berkeley. By a curious coincidence Berkeley found the key to the start of this symphony on his very first flight, from London to Jersey in the summer of 1936, though he didn't return to serious work on it till 1941, when he was staying at Berkeley Castle. The pupil paired with Berkeley is the late Sir John Tavener, who said of the First Symphony that it possessed a delicacy reminiscent of Mozart. Chris de Souza, who has been an admirer of Berkeley's music for many years, said that hearing the piano concertos in the Chandos recordings had inspired him to continue with his own composing. He has long been a friend of the family, and is a member of the Berkeley Society.


Festival performances and first recording of the Stabat Mater

March 2016

Lennox Berkeley Stabat Mater

In the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken, the Lennox Berkeley Society has organised, and found the funding for, a recording and three prestigious performances of one of Berkeley's greatest works, the Stabat Mater – the Latin hymn to Mary at the Cross. The first concert took place on Good Friday, 25 March at 6.00pm in Blythburgh Church, performed by the Marian Consort and the Berkeley Ensemble conducted by former chairman of the LBS, David Wordsworth. The concert will also feature music by Michael Berkeley and Benjamin Britten. During the following days, a CD of the Blythburgh programme will be made in the Britten studio at Snape by Delphian Records. Tickets for the concert are available online. Two further performances of the Stabat Mater, with the same forces, are planned for the summer. The first – part of the Spitalfields Festival – will take place in Shoreditch Church on 7 June at 8.00pm (download flyer), and the second will be on Sunday 17 July at 4pm in the Pittville Pump Room as part of the Cheltenham Festival. Tickets can be bought online or by telephone to the box office on 01242 850270. The work is dedicated to Benjamin Britten, who conducted the first UK performance, with the English Opera Group (and soloists including Peter Pears) in the Friends House, Euston, on 26 September 1947, five weeks after the world premiere in Zurich, which Berkeley himself conducted.

The Society is dedicating the performances of the Stabat Mater to the memory of its late Patron, Lady Berkeley.