L Berkeley: Tombeaux

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Tombeaux; Five Poems of WH Auden; Autumn’s Legacy; Five Chinese Songs; Five Herrick Poems; Automne, Op. 60/3; Ode du premier jour de Mai etc
PERFORMER: James Gilchrist (tenor), Alison Nicholls (harp), Anna Tilbrook (piano)


With well over 100 vocal works to his name, Lennox Berkeley was as active in the medium of solo song as his friend and rival Benjamin Britten.

But all too little finds its way on to recital programmes by comparison, which to judge from this absorbing recital from James Gilchrist is a pity. His choice of repertoire intersperses song cycles – three of them receiving their first recordings here – with individual numbers ranging from an early French setting composed as an Oxford undergraduate to a sonnet from his final decade.

As might be expected, given his Anglo-Gallic ancestry, Berkeley sets English and French texts with equal skill and his choice of poets, including Auden, Herrick, Cocteau and Apollinaire, brings out the best in his lyrical talents.

Gilchrist’s smooth, lightish tenor is the ideal voice for this repertoire: few singers have his ease in floating a line without guttural interruption – in the melisma of ‘De Socrate’ from the Cocteau cycle Tombeaux, 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