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English composer (1903-1989)
Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley (12 May 1903 – 26 December 1989) was an English composer.
In 1936 he met Benjamin Britten, also a former pupil of Gresham's School, at the ISCM Festival in Barcelona. Berkeley fell in love with Britten, who appears to have been wary of entering a relationship, writing in his diary, "we have come to an agreement on that subject." Nevertheless, the two composers shared a house for a year, living in the Old Mill at Snape, Suffolk, which Britten had acquired in July 1937. They subsequently enjoyed a long friendship and artistic association, collaborating on a number of works; these included the suite of Catalan dances titled Mont Juic, and Variations on an Elizabethan Theme (the latter also with four other composers).
He worked for the BBC during the Second World War, where he met his future wife, Elizabeth Freda Bernstein (1923-2016) whom he married on 14 December 1946. Together they had three sons; their eldest son Michael Berkeley, Baron Berkeley of Knighton, is also a composer, and their youngest son is the photographer Nick Berkeley.
He wrote several piano works for the pianist Colin Horsley, who commissioned the Horn Trio and some piano pieces, and gave the first performances and/or made the premier recordings of a number of his works, including his third Piano Concerto (1958).
Berkeley's earlier music is broadly tonal, influenced by the neoclassical music of Stravinsky. Berkeley's contact and friendship with composers such as Ravel and Poulenc and his studies in Paris with Boulanger lend his music a 'French' quality, demonstrated by its "emphasis on melody, the lucid textures and a conciseness of expression". He maintained a negative view of atonal music at least up until 1948, when he wrote:
I have never been able to derive much satisfaction from atonal music. The absence of key makes modulation an impossibility, and this, to my mind, causes monotony [...] I am not, of course, in favour of rigidly adhering to the old key-system, but some sort of tonal centre seems to me a necessity.
However, from the mid-1950s, Berkeley apparently felt a need to revise his style of composition, later telling the Canadian composer, R. Murray Schafer that "it's natural for a composer to feel a need to enlarge his idiom." He started including tone rows and aspects of serial technique in his compositions around the time of the Concertino, op. 49 (1955) and the opera Ruth (1955-6). His shift in opinion was demonstrated in an interview with The Times in 1959:
I'm not opposed to serial music; I've benefited from studying it, and I have sometimes found myself writing serial themes - although I don't elaborate on them according to strict serial principles, because I'm quite definitely a tonal composer. And there are some exceptions to the gospel of intellectualisation - I enjoyed listening to the record of Boulez's Le marteau sans maître very much, because there the timbres of the music were attractive in themselves.
His disciples included avantgarde composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, who felt that he learned nothing from him because of the gap between their musical conceptions, remembering him as "a notably urbane and well-meaning presence" but whose "Nadia Boulenger [sic] influenced gallic aesthetics were completely unable to deal with my compositional needs."
^Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 149.
^Oliver, Michael (1996). Benjamin Britten. University of Michigan: Phaidon. p. 60. ISBN9780714832777.
^Evans, John (2010). Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 1928-1938. Faber and Faber. p. 366. ISBN9780571274642.
^Evans, John (2010). Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 1928-1938. Faber and Faber. p. 494. ISBN9780571274642.
^Peter Dickinson The Music of Lennox Berkeley - Page 77 2003 "Colin Horsley remembered Berkeley's time at the BBC because he was reputed to have kept manuscript paper under his desk and was obviously longing to get more time to compose. Since it was there that he met his wife it is no wonder ..."