L Berkeley, M Berkeley: Symphony No. 4. The Garden of Earthly Delights; Cello Concerto

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COMPOSERS: L Berkeley,M Berkeley
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 4. The Garden of Earthly Delights; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Alban Gerhardt (cello); BBC NO of Wales/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10080
Memories of the 1978 premiere of Lennox Berkeley’s Fourth Symphony – as being pale in comparison with contemporary symphonic scores by Maxwell Davies and Tippett – are confounded by the bright timbres of its debut recording. In fact, the only complaint is that the finale of this three-movement structure comes too soon. Perhaps Berkeley still hankered after the concision of the Third Symphony of 1969, and, most courteous of composers, refrained from including a full-blooded scherzo for fear of boring his listeners.

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By way of recompense, there’s a welcome late rediscovery of earlier currents of lyricism, recalling the authentic voice of his Serenade. What once seemed a weakness, a reliance on the time-honoured discourse of questioning and answering phrases, now suggests strength, a background for the playful purpose of melody and harmony enshrining that rarest of gifts: a purely musical wit.

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Though fire-and-brimstone is the dominant mode for Michael Berkeley’s evocation of Bosch’s triptych of earthly delights and hellish rewards, the eclectic Cello Concerto of 1983 shares the family gift for repartee. A deft and persuasive soloist, Gerhardt is one of a team delivering readings which carry authority lightly while paying eloquent homage to the unerring craftsmanship of both father and son. Nicholas Williams