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Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, September 2010

Lennox Berkeley (1903–89) was a prolific 20th Century British composer who wrote in a large range of styles, many of which would not have been considered “contemporary” by 20th Century avant-garde standards. The music on this recording spans much of his mature career. He wrote the Sonatina in 1939 for recorder pioneer Carl Dolmetsch. Since there weren’t that many recorder players and harpsichord players around in 1939, the piece gained a life as a work for flute and piano. I prefer it played on the recorder and harpsichord (it is one of only a handful of excellent 20th Century pieces written for the recorder) but Williams does a fine job playing it on the flute, though he and Terroni make it sound oddly like a piece of French music in their lively recording space.

The Horn Trio, written in 1944 for the great British horn player Dennis Brain, is totally different from the best-known piece for that combination of instruments by Johannes Brahms. I actually prefer the Berkeley Trio to the Brahms, because Berkeley makes the violin sound as mighty as the horn, while, at least in concert, the violinist always ends up having to work really hard for very little return in the Brahms. The playing here is spectacular, particularly Stephen Stirling’s horn playing.

The 30 years between the somewhat dark 1945 Viola Sonata and the rather bright 1975 Quintet shows that Berkeley did change with the times, but only for the better. His language in 1975 is still quite tuneful and full of sequences, and he uses occasional bouts of bitonality and uses the oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano in ways that echo the most effective combinations of pieces for piano and winds, like the Poulenc Sextet.

James A. Altena
Fanfare, September 2010

Lennox Berkeley (1903–89), a pupil of Nadia Boulanger, was Britain’s leading neoclassical composer. While the affinities of his elegantly crafted works with French composers such as Fauré, Ravel, and Poulenc are well known, his music has an emotional reserve and severity, a formal rigor and toughness, and a rhythmic drive that also remind one of Hindemith and Honegger. This is particularly apparent in the Horn Trio, with its martial opening Allegro, deeply meditative Lento, and dance-like closing Theme and Variations with alternating stately and energetic sections. By contrast, the early Flute Sonatina (also playable on recorder) wears its French influence much more immediately on its sleeve. Opening with a coolly flowing and rippling Moderato, it then passes through a serenely drifting Adagio on its way to a jaunty, puckish Allegro moderato finale. The disc then turns to the dark, melancholic Viola Sonata, a work written at the end of World War II and reflective of the trials of those times. Its three-movement layout (Allegro ma non troppo, Adagio, Allegro) is similar to that of the Horn Trio composed a year earlier (despite the higher opus number), but the extroverted character of that work becomes introverted here, in music that speaks of concealed pain. The Quintet, composed 30 years later, ventures into more abstract realms, experimenting with elements of serialism and polyphonic passages within a tonal framework. This is austere music that is purely cerebral rather than emotionally expressive, and its four movements should be taken and enjoyed in that vein.

The current release continues the series of recordings that Naxos is devoting to Berkeley’s chamber works...the sound is of high quality, gracing the excellent performances by the various British instrumentalists. The Horn Trio is perhaps Berkeley’s most frequently recorded chamber work...A previous Naxos recording of the Viola Sonata on an English Viola Sonatas CD [8.572208] is currently the only rival to this one, and there is no other available recording of the Quintet. Given the excellence of the performances here and the budget price, there is no need to look elsewhere for more obscure and expensive competitors. Recommended.

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, August 2010

All offer excellent performances and are very well recorded with plenty of air around the sound and clean separation. Another excellent disc from Naxos, well worth the modest price.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

One of a group of English composers working around the mid-part of the 20th century, Lennox Berkeley was admired by critics but lacked public acclaim he richly deserved. Like many other young musicians of his time, he lived in Paris in the late 1920s to become a pupil of Nadia Boulanger, but it came at a crucial time in separating him from the nationalism sweeping through the UK. His output was abundant and included three symphonies, though much of his time was spent teaching at London’s Royal Academy of Music where his pupils included Richard Rodney Bennett and Nicholas Maw. Already thirty by the time his first work was published, the present disc covers much of his creative life, the readily attractive Flute Sonatina being the earliest. Its two outer movements, with their naughty harmonies, act as a foil to the rather sad adagio, a mood taken into the sombre Viola Sonata of 1945 that came as a reflection of his response to the war. With string intonation that is far from easy, it is here superbly played by Morgan Goff, the viola of the long-established Kreutzer Quartet. With a much later opus number, the Horn Trio dates from the previous year, though this has no overtones of conflict, the score flitting between atonality and tonality. By the time we reach the 1975 Quintet, Berkeley had become a very different composer, serialism entering into his vocabulary. It is a substantial score, not always easy to like, though the finale has a happy buzz to it. A large number of performers are involved all having in common the outstanding piano of Raphael Terroni. The horn is a little too dominant in the Trio, but otherwise very good and well balanced sound.

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