Lennox Berkeley, Michael Berkeley

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lennox Berkeley,Michael Berkeley
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Serenade
PERFORMER: David Pyatt (horn); BBC NO of Wales/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9981
Lennox Berkeley and his son Michael represent two of the brightest stars in 20th-century British music, and Chandos has found excellent advocates for their compositions in Richard Hickox and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for the first disc in its new Berkeley Edition.

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Fresh rhythms and vibrant brass-playing immediately capture the flavour of Lennox Berkeley’s piquant neo-classicism in the outer movements of his First Symphony. There is nothing superficial here, as Hickox’s sensitivity to the reeds in the Allegretto and the brooding cor anglais in the Lento tellingly penetrate the music’s darker side. His interpretation of the progression from light airiness to poignant nostalgia in the Serenade (1939) atmospherically recalls Europe on the verge of war.

David Pyatt is soloist for this first recording of Michael Berkeley’s Concerto for Horn and Strings. Horn and orchestra adroitly exchange punches in the predominantly aggressive opening movement before unravelling the complex of grief and anger in the second movement’s ingenious fusion of the ‘Last Post’ and the ‘Passion Chorale’.

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Hickox and his team finish with an incisive account of Coronach (a Gaelic funeral dirge), balancing with striking dramatic intensity the accumulated tension and the ethereal tranquillity of the elegiac violin theme. Nicholas Rast