Lennox Berkeley (1903 - 1989)
The late Master of the Queen’s Music, Malcolm Williamson, once wrote that if quality meant more than fame, then Lennox Berkeley should be placed in a position of the highest eminence. In an obituary notice in 1990, he called for a major revival of the Berkeley repertoire, saying that ‘it needs to be played and heard — all of it, and many times.’
The surprising thing about the music of Lennox Berkeley is that there is so much of it. Though a notoriously painstaking and meticulous craftsman, he produced — in a creative life of about 65 years — no fewer than 226 works, including fine examples of music for the theatre, the concert hall, church and home. There are four symphonies; concertos for cello, flute, guitar, piano and violin; string quartets; piano pieces; four operas, a ballet, film and incidental music; Mass settings and other sacred music; and songs.
Berkeley’s special gift lay in writing music that rings with the truth of his own personal voice. He found that voice and learned to trust its individuality under the magisterial influence of the great French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, to whom he had been introduced by Maurice Ravel on coming down from Oxford in 1926. It’s no coincidence that he should have found his faith as a Roman Catholic at the same time, and even considered becoming a priest. From then till his final illness he dedicated himself to writing music that expresses, in his own inimitable way, his personal vision of life and the God who created it.
Text above from from www.lennoxberkeley.org.uk Biography by Tony Scotland
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