Lennox Berkeley
Symphony No.2
Voices of the Night
Michael Berkeley
Concerto for Organ and Orchestra
Viola Concerto
Thomas Trotter (organ)

Paul Silverthorne (viola)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox

Recorded in May 2003 – 23, St David’s Hall, Cardiff (Organ Concerto) and 24 & 25, Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10167
Duration: 72 minutes
Reviewed: January 2004
The riches of Lennox Berkeley’s musical legacy continue to bewitch. Thanks to Chandos and Richard Hickox we now have his four symphonies recorded. Also included here is Voices of the Night, rapturously beautiful, and as befits nocturnal recital, there is mystery and shadows, and also, despite the final bars’ sounding the midnight bell, a perception of light dawning for a new day.
The Second Symphony is from 1958, the composer giving it an overhaul in 1976. Typically consummate in ideas and layout, Berkeley’s concision and economy, rhythmic guile and emotional candour add up to a patrician sense of form and content. The outer movements are developmental and directional, the finale breezy, light-hearted even, which offsets the slow movement’s (relative) severity, and the second-placed scherzo teases and beguiles.
Michael Berkeley’s two concertos are nicely contrasted. The one for organ finds the solo instrument more a first among equals rather than the dominant voice, the organ’s capability for colour, support and theatricality fully exploited in the mosaic-like scoring for full orchestra. This diverse 20-minute movement has a dramatic Easter-based sub-text that inspires a vibrant, intense soundscape.
The work for viola is one of Michael Berkeley’s strongest in terms of continuous structure and heartfelt invention, the viola’s soliloquies and more acerbic utterances manifestly sustained by very effective scoring, another full orchestra used singularly (in both senses) and in consort, and not without a feeling of angst.
Performances and recordings are of course first-rate. Chandos has recorded two of Lennox Berkeley’s operas for issue in due course. Hopefully this series will continue beyond that.

 

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