Good work for examinations and recitals by an important British composer. Duration c.6'. AMEB (Australian Syllabus) 2004. Programme notes as follows:
Lennox Berkeley was born in 1903 and died in 1989. After reading modern languages at Oxford he had no intention of becoming a composer until he met Ravel in 1926, who encouraged him to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He stayed in Paris until 1932, developing his own musical language. In 1936, after the death of his mother, he went to Barcelona for the International Society for Contemporary Music festival where he met Benjamin Britten. The two lived together at Snape in Suffolk for a while until the outbreak of war, before Berkeley moved back to London to work for the BBC. Here he met his future wife Freda Bernstein. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1946 until 1968, where his pupils included Richard Rodney Bennett, Nicholas Maw and John Tavener, among others. He was knighted in 1974.
In early February 1971 I was playing in a concert at St. John's Smith Square, London, then only relatively recently restored as a superb venue for music. The programme, which I believe was being broadcast, included Berkeley's Serenade Op.12. It was a work I had always enjoyed playing and was standard string orchestra repertoire at the time. There was initially no platform at St. John's and so the audience sat virtually on top of the performers. So close were they on this occasion that I had to ask for a little more room in order to play. At the end of the piece the orchestra acknowledged the applause and the gentleman who I had all but practically decapitated with my over-enthusiastic playing, stood up and took a bow. I had been almost playing in Lennox Berkeley's lap! The opportunity was too good to miss and I wasted little time in introducing myself. Mr Berkeley said that he had been fascinated by my playing and asked me to write to him about a possible commission.
This I did on 6 February, mentioning that Elisabeth Lutyens and Elizabeth Maconchy had both written for me, and that the Gulbenkian Foundation had offered to fund three commissions. My letter enquires, 'If all else fails, then I shall finance it myself: could you let me know the sort of figure you require?' I hoped to have the work to première at Dartington that August, which was a little optimistic.
A meeting was arranged at the composer's house near the Regent's Canal and I went to play for him with my accompanist Clifford Lee, so he could see what I could and (more important) could not easily do! We got on well and became friends. The piece was written some weeks later and we returned to play it to him. It needed no alteration, as he had taken great pains to write us a work that would be useful not only for us, but also for other young players looking for interesting repertoire that wasn't too technically demanding.
The Arts Council of Great Britain helped with the commission fee and Introduction and Allegro was written during August and September 1971. I gave it the première, with my accompanist Clifford Lee, at the Purcell Room, London, as part of the 1971 Park Lane Group Young Artists Award concert series. We had auditioned successfully for the scheme and became the first bass and piano duo to play in the long-running and prestigious series. In the same concert we also programmed Music for double bass and piano by Elizabeth Maconchy.