LORD (GERALD HUGH TYRWHITT-WILSON) BERNERS (1883 - 1950)
Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, (the 14th Baron Berners) (Lord Berners) was born on 18 September 1883 at Apley Park, near Bridgnorth, Shrosphire, the son of Commodore the Hon. Hugh Tyrwhitt and Julia Mary Foster. He studied at Eton and was later in Dresden, Vienna, France, and Italy, focusing mainly on languages which would equip him for the diplomatic service. He served as honorary attaché in Constantinople and later in Rome, but on his elevation, relinquished these posts, returning to English and his inheritance, several country estates, and lived the rest of his life, ostensibly as a country gentlemen. This, however, was only on the surface. He was a man whose music drew the highest praise from Stravinsky, and whose not inconsiderable literary and painting skills were to make him "the versatile peer" in the national press, but it was as a composer that he wished to be remembered.
The earliest music of Berners is the most avant-garde in style, being entirely made up of songs, in English, French and German, and piano pieces, many of which were published under his original name, Gerald Tyrwhitt. In 1926 his first ballet, The Triumph of Neptune, to a scenario by Sacheverell Sitwell, was produced by Dyagilevs Ballets Russes. He was one of only two British composers, the other being Constant Lambert, to be commissioned by the great impresario. From this point on his music became more accessible, though without losing its original flavour and distinctive style. It had shed its avant-garde skin with the orchestral triptych Trois morceaux, Fantasie espagnole, both first performed in 1919, and the Fugue in C minor of 1924. His music was deemed accessible enough to be considered for a C.B. Cochran revue, with the ballet Luna Park, in 1930. The last three ballets, A Wedding Bouquet, Cupid and Psyche, and Les Sirènes, were written in collaboration with Frederick Ashton as choreographer and Constant Lambert as musical director. Lambert and the young William Walton were the only two British composers for whom Berners felt a sympathy. Both Walton and Lambert probably helped with the orchestration of Triumph of Neptune, and Walton certainly received regular amounts of financial assistance from Berners for many years, even up to the composition of Belshazzars Feast, which is dedicated to him.
During the 1940s Berners involved himself in cinema, contributing a polka and a song, "Come on Algernon", to the 1944 Ealing production, Champagne Charlie, and writing complete film scores for The Halfway House (1943) and Nicholas Nickleby (1946). After this film, he wrote nothing of note for the last four years of his life. He suffered bouts of depression and, in the words of his friend John Benjamin, finally turned his face to the wall and died on 19 April 1950.