Lennox Berkeley: Sacred Choral Music

Writing in the Times Literary Supplement in 1966, Lennox Berkeley addressed directly the issue of producing sacred works: ‘How, it may be asked, does a composer approach the task of writing religious music? Does he adopt a different tone of voice, or use a special idiom? I would say that in the case of music that is religious in subject matter but intended for the concert platform there is no problem. I cannot imagine that any composer in these circumstances would want to modify his ordinary musical idiom’. Berkeley’s distinctive voice is indeed utterly recognisable throughout the three religious concert pieces considered here, but in a heightened and intensified form. The palpable fervour and sincerity of these scores secures them a place amongst the very finest examples of his art. Paul Conway

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"It's good to hear [Stabat Mater] performed just as Berkeley and Britten must have intended...Berkeley's Magnificat is a BBC broadcast of the first performance in St Paul's Cathedral in 1968, with the choirs of St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, joining impressively in the vast acoustic, it really comes over well." Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review

I enjoyed both accounts of the Stabat Mater. I’m not going to express a preference because I genuinely don’t have one. Each reading succeeds on its own terms and both conductors – David Wordsworth is in charge on Delphian – secure powerfully projected performances and bring Berkeley’s music vividly to life. The Stabat Mater is an important and eloquent score and both these performances do full justice to it. Admirers of the composer will want both. I’ve commented already on the Lyrita sound quality, which showcases these recordings very well. I must not neglect to mention that Paul Conway’s notes are, as usual, exemplary. I hope there will be more Berkeley recordings from the Itter collection to follow up this highly desirable release. John Quinn, Musicweb-international 

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