COMPOSERS: L Berkeley
LABELS: Resonus Classics
ALBUM TITLE: L Berkeley
WORKS: Pièce for wind trio; Sextet, Op. 47; In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky (Canon for string quartet); Introduction and Allegro for double bass and piano; String Trio, Op. 19; Three pieces for solo viola; Sonatine for clarinet and piano
PERFORMER: Berkeley Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: Resonus Classics RES 10149
This very enjoyable album shows some sides of Lennox Berkeley’s music that are familiar and some that are not, notably in the two works from his Paris years, recorded here for the first time. The Clarinet Sonatine of 1928 is a curious mixture of English pastoral and bitonal Honegger – not wholly convincing, but with a surprisingly powerful quasi-sarabande as the slow movement and some rude energy in the finale. In the Pièce for wind trio of 1929 he pays friendly homage to his friend Poulenc with some naughty pastiche of 18th-century figures; but by the time of the String Trio of 1943 Berkeley had absorbed any influence into a personal style that recognises tonality while playing subtle games with it, with a particular gift for lyrical passages that flower from nowhere.
The slow movement of the Sextet of 1955 has an austere beauty that suggests Shostakovich, splendidly contrasted with the good-humoured jig that follows. There’s great fun too in the 1971 Introduction and Allegro for double bass and piano, boasting an occasional burst of jazz, while the tiny, elegiac In Memoriam for Stravinsky of the same year is a marvel of economy and grace. The playing is superb throughout, the recording warm and clear, and Berkeley’s biographer Tony Scotland provides elegant, illuminating notes. Roger Nichols