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Cat. No. CHAN 10528 Price: 0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10528 - Songs of Sir Lennox Berkeley
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Available From: 01 June 2009
Songs of Sir Lennox Berkeley

Acclaimed as a concert soloist, recitalist and a recording artist, James Gilchrist is one of the finest British tenors of today.  In his first solo disc for Chandos, he performs a representative survey of the songs of Lennox Berkeley which demonstrates the distinctly Gallic flavour inspired by his time in France along with a spiritual intensity from his devotion to Roman Catholicism.  James is accompanied by Anna Tilbrook on piano and Alison Nicholls on harp.  

This collection, of complete song cycles and individual songs is offered in a more-or-less chronological layout and presents five premiere recordings: Autumn’s Legacy, Cocteau’s Tombeau, Bells of Cordoba, Five Herrick Poems and Sonnet Op. 102.  The miniature cycle, Cocteau’s Tombeau dates from Berkeley’s first year in Paris where he went to study with Nadia Boulanger and is characteristic of Les six.  Autumn’s Legacy is recognised as Berkeley’s most ambitious cycle, commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival.  The seven songs draw on a variety of poets including Beddoes, Lawrence Durrell, Tennyson and Hopkins – which show the range of Berkeley’s reading.  

James Gilchrist writes of the recording project, ‘I was enormously excited to be given this opportunity to record some of Berkeley’s songs.  I’ve long known and loved many.  But putting together this disc has allowed Anna and me to study his songs in some detail and find many new treasures.  There is a strikingly varied approach to his setting of song, from sparse simplicity to almost over-egged lusciousness.  But throughout is a truly individual voice.  Recording the monumental Autumn’s Legacy was a huge challenge, and Berkeley is able to find a convincing musical voice for Hopkins, a poet whom I feel often sees composers stumble.  And it’s striking how Berkeley kept coming back to setting French poems, with great success.’

This collection helps to reveal the status of Berkeley’s vocal music, which makes an unrivalled contribution to the central repertoire of songs in the English – and partly French – tradition.  Peter Dickinson provides extensive booklet notes about each individual song. 


“At last a disc devoted to the forgotten songs of Lennox Berkeley. Gilchrist is his own man: a fine artist and particularly well suited to these songs. Anna Tilbrook is the totally admirable accompanist, with Alison Nicholls the harpist in the attractive Herrick settings.”

John Steane

Gramophone - September 2009

“Tenor James Gilchrist has long been a supporter of the music of Lennox Berkeley and is a powerful advocate on this selection of songs many of which receive their premiere recordings here. Gilchrist sounds ravishing, and is ably supported by Tilbrook and Nicholls”
Warwick Thompson

Classic FM Magazine - October 2009

                 Performance ****     Recording ****
“Gilchrist’s smooth, lightish tenor is the ideal voice for this repertoire: few singers have this ease in floating a line without guttural interruption – in the melisma of ‘De Socrate’ from the Cocteau cycle Trombeaux for example. He demonstrates his characteristic feeling for the words in all these songs, but especially in the multi-poet cycle Autumn’s Legacy. Anna Tilbrook partners with insight and a subtle ear for capturing a song’s mood through timbre; and Alison Nicholls proves equally involving in the harp-accompanied Five Herrick Poems.”

Matthew Rye

BBC Music Magazine - September 2009

“These are wonderful songs of loss and regret tinged with melancholy at the passing of the seasons and the transience of human existence: Gilchrist and Tilbrook make them their own.”
Christopher Cook

International Record Review - September 2009

“The tenor James Gilchrist sings sweetly and cleanly, without affection, and Anna Tilbrook is finely responsive to the subtleties of the piano parts.”

The Telegraph - June 2009

“Gilchrist is magnificent. His supple voice caresses these texts with utter grace, and his legato singing is lovely. Anna Tilbrook and Alison Nicholls supply wonderful accompaniment. The sound is excellent. The liner notes include informative commentary by Peter Dickinson and Tony Scotland and complete texts. Berkeley’s unjustly neglected songs get the excellent performances they deserve.”
R Moore

American Record Guide - November/December 2009

“Gilchrist gives consistently wonderful performances of these works, with his clear voice and intelligent interpretations he is quite masterful at the English songs, in particular, and is well matched to his accompanist Anna Tilbrook, who responds admirably to Berkeley’s keen grasp of counterpoint (presumably learnt under Boulanger) which underpins much of his keyboard writing. Alison Nicholls’ deft harp-technique delivers a welcome change of texture at the mid-point of this recording and she makes light work of what is very difficult music indeed. In some ways I would have enjoyed more obvious changes of atmosphere between the French and English works, in particular, but such is the potency of Berkeley’s textures that on repeated listening this ceases to matter.
As ever with Chandos, the album is beautifully presented and recorded with their characteristic clarity and depth of field, all of which really captures the enjoyment of these artists in their performances. It is wonderful to have such a collection of Berkeley’s songs and this album is sure to inspire many listeners to discover more of his music.”

Ed Breen



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