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Lennox & Michael Berkeley Vol 6 / Hickox, Et Al

Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10408   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Lennox BerkeleyMichael Berkeley
Performer:  Howard ShelleyKathryn Stott
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

M. BERKELEY Concerto for Orchestra, “Seascapes.” Gregorian Variations. L. BERKELEY Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra 1 Richard Hickox, cond; Kathryn Stott (pn); 1 Howard Shelley (pn); 1 BBC Natl O of Wales CHANDOS 10408 (70:08)

Read more /> Professional musicians, wary of the rigors of a demanding career path, often discourage their offspring to continue in the family business. But children usually emulate successful parents, thus the frequency of lineages in the field of music. Michael Berkeley was born in 1948 to Lennox Berkeley, a solid, conservative mid-century British composer from the Boulanger atelier. On the basis of this release, Volume 6 of the Chandos “Berkeley Edition,” it is clear that this apple has not fallen far from the tree. Michael’s music is also conservative, but with more bite and superficial energy that that of his father. His strongly conceived “Seascapes” has the briny, bleak menace of Britten’s views to the open waters, as opposed to the more genial, if still powerful La mer of Debussy. The middle movement is a slow threnody composed in memory of a friend who was drowned in the 2004 tsunami disaster. The clean and sprightly Gregorian Variations is a relatively early work, completed in 1982, and a direct outgrowth of the composer’s experience as a boy chorister at Westminster Cathedral.

Paul A. Snook described the music of Lennox as “a very Anglican kind of balance between the sensuous and the sensible” in his review of Volume 3 ( Fanfare 27:4). This is certainly an apt lead-in to a discussion of the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, written in the year of his son’s birth. This is a beautifully crafted work, if rather emotionally reserved. The main technical characteristic of the piece is an expansive range of texture and dynamics, from solo piano to fully engaged large orchestra. The cross section of technique is worked into a set of 11 variations on a squarish theme that constitutes the second and concluding movement of the concerto. The wit and delicacy of Mozart, the composer’s idol, is evoked in this pleasant, if not awe-inspiring music.

Snook, who is obviously more familiar with the music of Lennox Berkeley than I, found fault with the emotional commitment of Hickox in his review of the Symphony No. 4. Perhaps this is less of an issue in the essentially neo-Classical Double Concerto, which sounds alert and tonally bright as played by the Wales band and these two fine soloists. I second Snook’s general endorsement of this series for the many fans of traditional English orchestral music.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for 2 Pianos, Op. 30 by Lennox Berkeley
Performer:  Howard Shelley (Piano), Kathryn Stott (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; England 
Gregorian Variations by Michael Berkeley
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Concerto for Orchestra 'Seascapes' by Michael Berkeley
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Written: 2005 

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