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Lennox Berkeley

Publisher: Chester Music

Concerto for Guitar (1974)
commissioned by the 1974 City of London Festival
Chester Music Ltd
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
22 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Lennox Berkeley Concerto for Guitar (1974)
Lennox Berkeley

Guitar Concerto

The guitar concerto is in three movements; Andante-Ellegretto, Lento and Allegro con brio. The orchestra consists of a single woodwind, two horns and strings. After a short introduction played by the horns, the principal theme of the first movement is heard. The guitar begins with an accompanying figure before taking over the theme itself. A second theme (guitar solo) appears later; the movement thereafter keeps fairly close to the traditional sonato-movement pattern, ending with a passage in harmonics on the solo instrument accompanied (pianissimo) by the strings. A short slow movement follows, the material consisting of a rising phrase (woodwind answered by muted horns), and a more purely melodic theme first heard as a guitar solo. A middle section in a rather different mood then intervenes, leading to a coda based on the two themes heard earlier in the movement. The third movement, more forthright in character than the other two, is mainly derived from two motifs – the rhythmical figure with which it starts and the melodic section first hinted at by the woodwind and afterwards played by the violins. Later, the guitar returns to its slow movement theme, and this leads to a Cadenza which in turn merges into a shortened recapitulation. The coda which follows this is based on the opening rhythm not appearing in the form of a rising scale.

The work, written at the request of Julian Bream and dedicated to him, was commissioned by the Festival of the City of London and first performed on 4 July 1974 at St Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield, London by Julian Bream and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davies.

Lennox Berkeley

  • Ensemble
    Monteverdi Orchestra
    J Bream, guitar
    Sir John Eliot Gardiner
  • Ensemble
    Northern Sinfonia
    Craig Ogden
    Richard Hickox
Guitar Concerto Craig Ogden / Northern Sinfonia / Hickox (Chandos 9963) “Craig Ogden is a brilliant persuasive advocate, not only in the Walton but in the Malcolm Arnold and Lennox Berkeley Concertos….The Berkeley concerto is a more relaxed work that benefits, in Richard Hickox’s performance, from relatively urgent speed. It begins atmospherically with a horn duet, and leads, via a mysterious slow movement, to a finale that starts with a sly quote from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjeuz.”
Edward Greenfield, Guardian,08/02/2002
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