Friday, May 26, 2017

Berkeley, Lennox. (1903-1989) Symphonies No. 1 & 2.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 11-9-2010.
Second listen: 29-3-2014.
Third listen: 26-5-2017.
Label: Lyrita.
Warning: This is a burned copy not a pressed one. (It has however no consequence for the sound)
Recording dates: 1975 (No. 1) 1978. (No. 2)
Recording venues and engineers: Not mentioned.
Digital remastering: Simon Gibson.
Running time: 62:03.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works.

Symphony No 1, opus 16. (1940) and No. 2, opus 51. (1956/7-rev 1976)

Performers.

London PO, Norman Del Mar & Nicholas Braithwaite.

Lennox Berkeley, and indeed his son Michael Berkeley are pivotal composers from the 20th century for me. The style of music they represent is of the utmost importance. And what a good start into Lennox's music with this CD which holds both symphonies, so perfectly emulating the importance of this composer.

The first Symphony goes back to 1936, when he started the first sketches of the work, and completed it in 1941. Berkeley conducted the premiere at the proms of 1943.  It's a very broad work, very melodic, and solemn, and with some wartime drama in it, especially in the Lento movement. I find it to be a masterly constructed work, in which signs of his emerging modernism come to the surface in many instances.
Symphony No. 2, is also a broad work, but more robust, and wayward, in which Lennox's particular creative process is emerging full blast. Berkeley is widening his views, and walks slowly into a more modern sound.  The music gets a deep personal meaning, by the closely knitted shimmering strings which creates an unmistakable aura of eloquent gracefulness but also concentrated reflections of aggressive dissonances, coupled with innocent melodies, which gives you a compelling understanding of the structure in this symphony. Potent rhythms, remarkable unity in its projection, astonishingly  nuanced in detail, free floating at all times. This work conveys a deep emotional intensity, which culminates in all glory in the third movement, brilliantly executed by this fine orchestra. It is quite an impressive recording for its time, it certainly doesn't lack drive, and is detailed. A deep soundstage is giving the recording quite a natural ambiance.
As a side note is is interesting to know that Andrzej Panufnik was the chief conductor of the London PO, when Lennox premiered the piece on the 9th of September 1959. On this CD we hear the revision from 1976.




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