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Lennox BERKELEY  Chamber Music Concertino; Introduction & Allegro; Duo; Elegy & Toccata: Petite Suite; Sextet.   Endymion Ensemble Dutton CSDLX 7100 72'44"

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Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-89) is now in danger of becoming best known as his son Michael's father! He was an expert practitioner of the craft of composition, his skills honed in France by Nadia Boulanger. He became a close friend and colleague of the younger genius Benjamin Britten (they composed Mont Juic jointly!) and was overshadowed by him in later years.

This is a well-selected programme of works for varied combinations ranging from solo violin to a wind/strings sextet, and composed between 1927 and 1971. It plays well in sequence, which I always like to think is a significant consideration.

For this CD, the Endymion Ensembles fields Krysia Osostowicz (violin) Jane salmon (cello) Melinda Maxwell (oboe) Michael Dussek (piano) with several other players participating. Well played and recorded throughout and well worth exploring.


Peter Grahame Woolf

Web-sites: Lennox Berkeley   Michael Berkeley


Three more Duttons:

John Ireland - Violin Sonata No1 :Violin Sonata No2* : Phantasie Trio in A minor : The Holy Boy :
Albert Sammons (Vln) : John Ireland (piano)* Nov 1945
Frederick Grinke (vln) : John Ireland (piano) Oct 1930
Frederick Grinke : Florence Hooton : Kenneth Taylor : Nov 1938
Florence Hooton : Laurence Pratt Nov 1938 CSDLX 7103  Ireland website

The Romantic Cello
Hubert Parry - Cello Sonata in A William Hurlstone - Cello Sonata in D Hamilton Harty - Romance & Scherzo op 8 : Waldestille : Schmetterling
Andrew Fuller : Michael Dussek CDLX 7102

Edmund Rubbra Violin Sonata No 1 op11 : Violin Sonata No 2 op 31 : Violin Sonata op133 : Four Pieces op 29 : Variations on a Phrygian Theme for solo violin op105
Krysia Osostowicz (vln) Michael Dussek (piano) CDLX 7101 Rubbra website

Four marvellous recordings of English chamber music from Dutton Laboritories Epoch Series that deserve to be snapped up at the earliest chance, not just by English music fans but by all who appreciate great chamber music playing. Three of the recordings use members of the Endymion Ensemble, whilst the other is of considerable historical interest being John Ireland accompanying two of Britains most notable violinists of the past in his own music.

Civilized and elegent are words that are often used to describe the music of Sir Lennox Berkeley. By no means particularly negative adjectives and by no means untrue, but there is much more to the music than that. His chamber music is particularly beautifully crafted, some such as the early "Petite Suite" shows the french influence (another descriptive term that dogged Berkeley's composing career), but later works such as the Oboe Quartet and the Duo show a much more serious voice - adapting his own very personal brand of serialism (something like Frank Martin )and motivic development.

The Sextet (for clarinet, horn and string quartet) is one of the very best chamber works and worth the price of the CD alone. The playing is excellent throughout.

The Ireland CD shows the composer in fine form as pianist - sadly Ireland made very few commercial recordings, being very unsure of his abilities - these recordings however show a fine command of the instrument and a very clear understanding of what he wanted from his own music. It will come as no suprise to learn that the 1930 recording is not ideal, but it does get better as it goes along and with such remarkable and valuable documents one has to make allowances.

The Romantic Cello heralds a major discovery - the Parry Cello Sonata is a major work on a symphonic scale and shows the young composer flexing his muscles and enthusiastically takling in and digesting the Wagnerian influence. William Hurlstone died tragically young at 30 without reaching his full potential - the Cello Sonata, whilst not a major work is well crafted and certainly warrants occasional hearing. The final delights in the disc are salon pieces in the manner of Elgar's "Chanson de matin" - they are melodic, witty and sparkling and show a hitherto undiscovered side to Hamilton Harty. Andrew Fuller has a strong, full tone and Michael Dussek, as in all these discs is the fine accompanist.

The biggest discovery for me in these recordings is the disc of Violin Sonatas by Edmund Rubbra. As we approach Rubbra's centenary (2001) it has been good to note the new interest in his work, not least in Richard Hickox's fine series of symphonic works. As for this disc, at least one work (Sonata 2) is an undoubted masterpiece and is quite able to hold up its head proudly with the best of other such works written this century.

The other works come from opposite ends of Rubbra's career and are equally worth investigating - as fillers there are a short series of resourceful variations and four charming educational pieces. It is a complete mystery as to why this music does not get heard - the performances could not be bettered - if this is not amongst the CD's of the year in 2000 there is not justice.


David Wordsworth


Peter Grahame Woolf

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