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Cat. No. CHAN 10247 Price: £5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10247 - Berkeley, Lennox & Michael: Piano Works
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Available From: 06 September 2004
With their flair and brilliance, the Six Preludes justifiably became regarded as among Lennox Berkeley’s finest piano works. They originated in a BBC commission for short pieces that could be performed as interludes between programmes (the BBC later dropped this idea). Berkeley intended the pieces to be playable by skilled amateurs and while two proved more difficult than he had envisaged, none requires a virtuoso pianist.

Berkeley’s natural adroitness at developing thematic material is nowhere demonstrated better than in the Sonata, his most significant piano work.

Paysage was written to celebrate the liberation of France in 1944. Berkeley was partly of French ancestry so it was natural that he rejoiced at the end of Nazi domination in that country.

The pianist Colin Horsley was a major exponent of Berkeley’s work and the dedicatee of the virtuoso Concert Study in E flat major. He commissioned the witty Scherzo so that he could offer an encore after performances of the Six Preludes.

The Three Mazurkas are Berkeley’s most overt homage to Chopin. The first dates from 1939 and has a sinister edge that may reflect the time of its composition. The other two were composed a decade later for the centenary commemoration of the death of Chopin. The Improvisation on a Theme of Manuel de Falla was composed for inclusion in a celebratory album to mark the centenary of the founding of the publishing house J. & W. Chester. In it Berkeley alludes to a melody from Falla’s ballet El amor brujo.

Strange Meeting is the first of two works which Michael Berkeley has so far written for solo piano. The title refers to the poem by Wilfred Owen, with the first movement evoking the ‘strangeness’ of a meeting in the afterworld of a British and German soldier who, in life, had fought hand to hand.
Reviews

Fingerhut is technically up to handling this material. She is at her best in the more cintemplative pieces such as ‘Paysage’, where her exquisite sense of touch brings out a host of colours without over-peddling… Fans of either Berkeley are likely to want this release.
Fanfare

'The music is sheer joy for pianist and listener alike and Margaret Fingerhut makes the most of the music's lyrical quality; her touch is ideally suited to interpreting this very expressive music.'
International Piano

'For those who have not yet sampled the rich storehouse of the ongoing Chandos series, which pairs the music of the Berkeleys, father Lennox and son Michael, this new release will be the ideal introduction… The fact that if offers more bedsides… lifts it into the category of essential.'
International Record Review

As you’d expect from Fingerhut and Chandos, this is a first-class presentation of Berkely’s music.
American Record Guide

'I have known these pieces for more than 50 years and can confirm that every move she [Fingerhut] makes is utterly musical and idiomatic. The melodies are allowed to speak for themselves in the great pianistic tradition stretching from Mozart to Ravel. Nobody else could have written this richly rewarding music and these performances confirm Fingerhut as an outstanding executant.'
Gramophone

'Margaret Fingerhut is an accomplished and stylish advocate; she is particularly eloquent in the dark colours of the Michael Berkeley, and gives a penetrating account of the Sonata' For anyone interested in 20th-century British music, this is warmly recommended.'
BBC Music Magazine

 

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