Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Polka (1941)
Peter Dickinson (piano)
Lieder Album; Three Songs in the German Manner (1913-18)
Meriel Dickinson (mezzo soprano) and Peter Dickinson (piano)
Fragments Psychologiques (1915)
Peter Dickinson (piano)
Dialogue between Tom Filuter and his Man, by Ned the Dog Stealer (1921)
Bernard Dickerson (tenor) and Richard Rodney Bennett (piano)
Three Songs (1920)
Meriel Dickinson (mezzo soprano) and Peter Dickinson (piano)
Le Poisson d’Or (1915)
Susan Bradshaw (piano)
Red Roses and Red Noses (c1941)
Meriel Dickinson (mezzo soprano) and Peter Dickinson (piano)
Trois Petites Marches Funèbres (1916)
Susan Bradshaw (piano)
Trois Chansons (1920)
Meriel Dickinson (mezzo soprano) and Peter Dickinson (piano)
Valses Bourgeoises (1919)
Susan Bradshaw (piano) and Richard Rodney Bennett (piano)
Dispute entre le Papillon et le Crapaud (c.1914)
Susan Bradshaw (piano)
Three Songs – Sea Shanties (1921)
Bernard Dickerson (tenor) and Richard Rodney Bennett (piano)
Come on Algernon (1944)
Meriel Dickinson (mezzo soprano) and Peter Dickinson (piano)
Fanfare; composed for the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund
Kneller Hall Musicians conducted by Captain A E Adkins
Nicholas Nickleby – incidental music from the film
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Ernest Irving
Les Sirènes – ballet music
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Ernest Irving
Les Sirènes – Prelude, Mazurka and Polka

Lord Berners (piano)
Recorded 1977 and originally released on Unicorn-Kanchana except Fanfare, recorded 1934, Nicholas Nickleby – incidental music and Les Sirènes – ballet music, recorded 1947, Les Sirènes – Prelude, Mazurka and Polka recorded c.1946
SYMPOSIUM 1278 [79.40]


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The bulk of this disc derives from a Unicorn LP (RHS355) issued in 1979. It’s been rounded out with a number of historic recordings – film and ballet scores and culminating in some examples of Berners’ pianism in rare recordings from c.1946. The LP was a highly successful in evoking the memories of a celebratory Berners concert on the South Bank and more importantly in spanning the broad sweep of his small but important body of work.

He is here in all his irresistible variety, from the delicious opening Polka and the caustic wit of Meriel Dickinson’s delivery of the second of his German songs to the Chinoiserie of the opening piano paragraphs of the third and last of them. His tough, modernistic streak can best be savoured in the first of his Fragments Psychologiques settings and the onomatopoeic laughter of the second whilst his vocal settings range from frivolous to nebulous to impressionistic and his solo piano works – such as Le Poisson d’Or - evoke Ravelian hints. Red Roses and Red Noses, one of his more famous pieces, has in this performance a touching and affectionate lilt that shows another side to Berners’ gift. The fact that it is here immediately followed by the 1916 Trois Petites Marches Funèbres is not simply a juxtaposition the composer might himself have approved – it shows rather more the quicksilver faces that he showed to the world; the first of the Marches evokes the fatuous pomp of the Statesman’s funeral, the third the barely suppressed glee and insouciant whistling of For A Rich Aunt, whilst the greatest weight is reserved for the central March, inevitably perhaps For A Canary.

Berners always attracts the words satiric and frivolous, adjectives I’ve not avoided either, but confronted by the deconstructionist aesthetic that informs the last of the Valses Bourgeoises (1919) it’s hard to avoid. This, marked Strauss, Strauss et Straus waltzes the waltz into the immediate post War sunset. As he rather does to the Nauticalia so beloved by the British – in the Three Sea Shanties they are taken for a very long walk and dropped off the end of the pier. Come On Algernon is a song Berners wrote for the film Champagne Charlie (1944). I loved the song before I ever realised who had written it. And now that I’ve listened to it again and the suggestive Music Hall lyrics I can only echo the Max Miller line – Go on, make something of that. The historical material shows that Berners was a first class film composer – Nicholas Nickleby has flair, colour and vivacity, whilst his ballet score Les Sirènes has an especially ebullient Waltz (shades of Strauss no less). It’s a shame that the cues aren’t separately tracked in the film and ballet music. Finally whilst the privately recorded piano pieces are somewhat bumpy rides sonically and the playing is pretty ropey technically we can enjoy the sound of Berners humming his way through Les Sirènes.

The notes are by Gavin Bryars and Philip Lane and are full of treasurable insight and admiring intelligence. All the performances are fine, the recorded sound sympathetic and the ethos of the disc warmly but professionally generous.

Jonathan Woolf



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