LENNOX BERKELEY: Piano Sonata in A; 6 Preludes, op. 23; Scherzo in D, op. 32 No. 2; Concert Study No. 2; 4 Concert Studies; ARTHUR BENJAMIN: Pastorale, Arioso, and Finale; Etudes Improvisees; Siciliana – Colin Horsley, Lamar Crowson, piano – Lyrita

by | May 4, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

LENNOX BERKELEY: Piano Sonata in A, Op. 20; 6 Preludes, Op. 23; Scherzo in D, Op. 32 No. 2; Concert Study No. 2, Op. 48; 4 Concert Studies, Op. 14; ARTHUR BENJAMIN: Pastorale, Arioso, and Finale; Etudes Improvisees; Siciliana – Colin Horsley, Lamar Crowson, piano – Lyrita REAM.2109 (2 CDs), 85:22 **** [Distr. by Allegro]:

Lennox Berkeley is a composer who has written some spiky, non-nonsense music that also has moments of great beauty and irresistible rhythmic drive. The span of his piano works really includes his entire life, but the pieces on this excellent new disc from Lyrita (who have been slowly re-releasing their excellent LP catalog on CD, an important collection of British music) focus mainly on the years 1940-55. The Piano Sonata is an important work of large proportions (about 24 minutes) and should be heard more often in recital. The other pieces are of a character nature, intensely realized and fervently communicative.

Arthur Benjamin was fated to be known only for the lively Jamaican Rumba, a rather small and ultimately insignificant portion of his work. Benjamin, who also would teach Benjamin Britten, wrote music of pastoral effectiveness and lighter lyrical sensibilities as compared to Berkeley, who is ensconced in Gallic purity of line and more linear writing. Yet he had a masterly way of reflecting the world where he lived in his music, and it is unerringly provocative and unflinching unembarrassed about its populist roots. But lest I portray Benjamin as a less-than-competent composer, it must be said that his music is clever and well-crafted, a master who knew his muse well, even though he is a lesser light than Berkeley, and not included in the first rank of British composers.

These recordings hail from 1959 and 1964, both curiously mono, but none the less agreeable for that. The sound is excellent, and the single channel no detriment to full enjoyment of the works. Both Colin Horsley (Berkeley) and Lamar Crowson (Benjamin) had close relations with each composer, and at least for the time these readings must have been considered definitive. Anglophiles will have to have this, and all others approach with confidence.

— Steven Ritter

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