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Cat. No. CHAN 10408 Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10408 - Berkeley: The Berkeley Edition, Volume 6
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Available From: 01 March 2007
A rare example in the modern world of father and son composers of similar distinction, both Lennox and Michael Berkeley have in turn reached a position of prominence and influence in British musical life. They are represented on this disc by works showing their craftsmanship in tailoring works to particular performers and occasions, without compromising their individual language and vision. Lennox Berkeley’s two-piano concerto, written in one of the most fertile periods of his career, is a highly effective showpiece for its soloists, which nevertheless avoids the obvious in terms of form and treatment. Lennox Berkeley wrote his Concerto for Two Pianos in 1948 in response to a commission from the Henry Wood Concert Society. The medium of the double concerto was a comparatively unusual one, though there were significant precedents in works by Berkeley’s idol Mozart, and also Brahms and Poulenc. Berkeley himself said in a programme note that his intention was ‘to contrast the sound of two pianofortes with that of the orchestra, avoiding thereby the familiar textures of the ordinary one-pianoforte concerto. The soloists, therefore, are nearly always used as a unit, and not as individuals.’

Michael Berkeley’s Gregorian Variations for large orchestra was completed in 1982, with the premise ‘to make it accessible to a lay audience at first hearing’. He chose to base it on the Gregorian plainchant he had absorbed as a boy chorister in Westminster Cathedral. Despite its title, the work does not consist of variations on a single theme, but is a continuous fantasia based on a number of different chant melodies. In the years after the Gregorian Variations, Michael Berkeley’s style has undergone considerable development, with results that are apparent in the Concerto for Orchestra of 2004/5. The music is more consistent, without stylistic references: it is much more chromatic and less obviously tonal or modal, though key-centres remain as points of anchorage beneath the surface.

This final volume concludes one of Britain’s most important recording projects in recent years, and the complete series provides an important document of Twentieth Century British music. A collector’s dream.
Reviews

Once again , though, the playing under Richard Hickox is all one could wish for. Michael Berkeley’s note referred to above identifies this as the planned sixth and last of these Berkeley albums. I hope not. This superbly conceived and executed series has been a landmark event: a model of its kind for British music.
International Record Review

Lennox Berkeley’s Concerto for Two Pianos of 1948 (the year of Michael’s birth, as it happens) is a two-movement work – a prelude followed by a set of enterprising variations in which Berkeley treats the two pianos as a single instrument. Kathryn Stott and Howard Shelley are the formidable exponents of this ‘super-piano’, while here and in the Michael Berkeley pieces Richard Hickox inspires incisive playing from the members of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The recording from Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall, is among Chandos’s best.
BBC Music Magazine

Reviews from previous volumes:
‘This magnificent series devoted to the two Berkeleys’ continues… as in the previous three volumes there are revelations, with Richard Hickox as the ideal interpreter in every way.

Gramophone on CHAN 10167 (Volume 4)

But the highlight of the disc for me is Michael Berkeley’s Concerto for Orchestra: ‘Seascape’, written for the Proms in 2005, dedicated to conductor Richard Hickox, and darkly overshadowed by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, when Berkeley heard the grim news that a friend was amongst the victims. The slow movement is a threnody for solo trumpet, while the outer movements have a desperate energy and vivid detail that submerges the listener in startling colours and conflicting emotions. Performance and recording are superb, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales playing as though their lives are at stake in this turbulent seascape. If the Berkeley Edition has to end here, at least it’s on a real high.
www.BBC.co.uk

A fascinating programme, extremely well played and recorded.
The Sunday Times ‘CD of the Week’ on CHAN 9981 (Volume 1)

The magnificently rewarding Berkeley Edition under Richard Hickox comes to an end with major works by both father and son.
Gramophone

…the festive and sparkling Two-Piano Concerto that he turned out in 1948, here played to perfection by Kathryn Stott, Howard Shelley, and the BBC Wales… This [Seascapes] is music of considerable eloquence and power. As in all the releases in the series, performances and sonics are nigh ideal.
American Record Guide

 

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