Berkeley Sonata for Flute and Piano


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Berkeley Sonata for Flute and Piano

Berkeley Sonata for Flute and Piano

This flute sonata Op.97, was first performed as part of a concert given by James Galway and Phillip Moll in 1978.


In this work, Berkeley follows a form closely resembling that of the classical Sonata, though on a somewhat smaller scale. The idiom employed is primarily tonal, with a focus on having a tonal centre rather than adhering strictly to a clearly defined key.

The first movement centres on G and explores various tonalities before eventually returning to the G tonal centre towards the movement’s conclusion.

The slow movement exhibits a more definite tonal character and maintains a melodic quality throughout. The main theme, initially presented in B flat, ventures into D, and eventually resolves back to the original key at the movement’s end.

The final movement adopts a lighter tone compared to the preceding movements. It follows a rondo form, where the principal theme is not repeated but rather subtly referenced, while the Coda is derived from one of its many transformations.

It is important to note that this work is not structured as a flute solo accompanied by the piano. Instead, both instruments play equally essential roles, though the flute often takes the lead in establishing the thematic material.

Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley (1903-1989)

Berkeley (1903-1989), a renowned British composer, was celebrated for his vibrant and lively compositions. He earned a B.A. degree from Merton College, Oxford, in 1926. In 1927, Berkeley traveled to Paris to study music under Nadia Boulanger, forming acquaintances with influential composers like Francis Poulenc, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, and Albert Roussel. His technical development as a composer owed much to the mentorship of Maurice Ravel during this time.

Upon returning to Britain in 1935, he achieved recognition with the premiere of his first major work, the oratorio Jonah. The following year, Berkeley unexpectedly encountered Benjamin Britten at a music festival, leading to an enduring artistic partnership and lifelong friendship. This collaboration produced the orchestral work Mont Juic (1937). Throughout World War II, Berkeley’s career flourished as he contributed to the BBC’s efforts.

Berkeley’s compositions stood out for their melodious richness and masterful orchestral texture. Notable works included the impeccably crafted orchestral piece Divertimento (1943) and the expressive Piano Sonata (1945), showcasing his adept handling of harmonies. He further gained acclaim for his vocal compositions, particularly religious pieces like the Stabat Mater (1947), created for Britten’s English Opera Group.

In addition to his works for renowned musicians like guitarist Julian Bream and oboist Janet Craxton, Berkeley explored opera composition, giving rise to significant pieces like Nelson (1954) and Ruth (1956). As his career progressed, he delved into atonality in later compositions such as Sonatina (1962) and Symphony No. 4 (1978).

Berkeley’s influence extended beyond composition; he served as a professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1946 to 1968, mentoring notable students like Richard Rodney Bennett and John Tavener. Additionally, he held an honorary professorship of music at Keele University from 1976 to 1979 and presided over the Cheltenham International Festival of Music from 1977 to 1983. In recognition of his remarkable contributions to music, Berkeley was knighted in 1974.

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