Magazine article Musical Opinion

Berkeley: The Complete Piano Music

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Berkeley: The Complete Piano Music

Article excerpt

Douglas Stevens ★★★★★ Hoxa HO 1806-18 [2 CDs]

This CD - the first of the complete piano oeuvre - makes a convincing case for Lennox Berkeley as one of the finest British composers of piano music in the last century. The output is varied with groups of short pieces, studies, and the eloquent Sonata of 1945. This work was a landmark, written for Clifford Curzon who hardly ever played it, taken up by Colin Horsley who dedicated himself to Berkeley giving many international performances of the Concerto, commissioning the now unknown Concerto for Piano and Double Strings, as well as playing the solo works. The Sonata was practically an avant-garde document in British music of that time with Berkeley at the height of his powers. But all Berkeley's music is lyrical and there are many pieces here with memorable melodies. What is incomprehensible is that pianists neglect this repertoire in favour of the usual run of classics endlessly repeated.

Douglas Stevens is a virtuoso and it seems extraordinary that this release may be his first appearance on CD. He did a PhD on Berkeley at the University of Bristol [Lennox Berkeley: a Critical Study of his Music, 2011] but unfortunately it has not been published. But that experience must have left him wanting to do justice to the piano works. There have been several recordings over the years - Colin Horsley on LP (later CD); Raphael Terroni; Christopher Headington, an early pupil; and most recently Margaret Fingerhut. None of these is complete. …

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