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Lennox Berkeley

Publisher: Chester Music

A Winter's Tale (1960)
Work Notes
Incidental music for Royal Shakespeare production
Chester Music Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Operetta / Musical
Year Composed
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Programme Note
Lennox Berkeley A Winter's Tale (1960)
The Winter’s Tale

For the production of “The Winter’s Tale” at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford, in 1960, Lennox Berkeley was invited to compose the incidental music. As a direct result of this, Berkeley took the original music and built it into a Suite for standard orchestral use. All the original ideas were extended and enlarged upon, and although the Suite is continuous, each section is easy to define.

The Suite opens with a ‘Prologue’, a simple introduction to set the scene, developed from a fanfare motif. There follows ‘The Banquet’ scene, with obvious discussion and chatter between the two Kings, Leontes of Socilia, and Polixenes of Bohemia. The Prison scene is represented by the Nocturne with quite yet rich scoring for strings answered by the wood wind and brass. The young Prince of Sicilia, Mamillius, is next protrayed, bright, cheerful tunes, yet with the undertones of his own untimely tragedy, brought out at the end by its quiet dying cadence.

‘The Storm’, occupying in Act III Scene 3, when Antigonus is abandoning Leontes’ baby daughter in Bohemia, is a clever interpretation of the howling wind, pouring rain, thunder, and in the words of Antigonus ‘I never saw the heavens so dim by dam. A savage clamour.’

The storm passes, and so does time. Perdita, the baby princess, is now grown, and is in love with Florizel; the following movement ‘Florizel and Perdita’ is a charmingly rural scene capturing the quiet and happy spirit of the two lovers. They are followed by ‘The Shepherd’s Dance’, complete with drone basses and tuneful flutes, and much gay flirtation between all instruments.

The final scene both of this Suite and the play includes ‘The Statue’ that of Hermione, the Queen of Sicilia, Leontes’ wife. With much deliberation the statue comes down from its pedestal, resolves all the problems, and to use another famous line ‘All’s well that ends well’.

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