Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Lennox Berkeley and Arthur Benjamin Piano Music on Lyrita

Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989) Piano Sonata in A Major Op.20 (1945) Six Preludes Op.23 (1944) Scherzo in D Major Op. 32 No. 2 (1949) Impromptu in G Minor Op. 7 No. 1 Concert Study in E-flat Op.48 No. 2 (1955) Concert Studies Nos. 2, 3, 4 Op. 14 (1940) Colin Horsley (piano) Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) Pastorale, Arioso and Finale (1943) Scherzino (1936) Etudes Improvisées; Siciliana (1936) Lamar Crowson (piano)
Lyrita REAM 2109

I recently reviewed these two Lyrita re-issues (packaged as one double CD) for MusicWeb International. As I had not listened to the original vinyl for many years it is was great to reacquaint myself with this superb and interesting music that is brilliantly performed by two fine pianists. In particular it is good to have this interpretation of Benjamin’s music by one of the composer’s American pupils.

I began my review by recalling that “Arthur Benjamin is a composer who suffers from being known primarily for one work – the Jamaican Rumba. This appears in dozens of guises – from James Galway to Glenn Miller. It is not given an outing on this CD. I am pleased that this pot-boiler does not distract from the fine selection of little-known works presented here…

Naturally the Berkeley is better known. I feel that “the best place to begin the exploration of Lennox Berkeley’s piano music is the set of Six Preludes. They were composed in 1944 and were dedicated to Val Drewry. The composer writes that, in these Preludes, it was his intention to "express himself as concisely as possible". Each one of these pieces presents a single idea, which may be a melodic or rhythmic germ and then offers it up in a variety of guises or, more pertinently, elaborations. It would be easy to try to allocate models to these Preludes – Chopin, Debussy and perhaps even Stravinsky spring to mind for at least four of them. Yet like all great composers, Berkeley does not write in a vacuum…"

"This is a fantastic CD set – for three reasons. Firstly it is great to have these two vinyl discs re-pristinated on CD. Secondly the Berkeley disc is an excellent introduction to this composer’s piano music. And lastly it is one of the few currently available discs that explores Arthur Benjamin’s music. Round this out with the ‘two for one’ pricing strategy and this release is excellent value indeed".

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International

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