One doesn't need to delve very deeply into music history to notice how many composers have had children who followed their father's careers, with J.S. Bach and his several musically successful sons being the most obvious example. Generally, the younger composer either has foundered under the weight of his/her father's reputation (Siegfried Wagner, Soulima Stravinsky), or eclipsed it (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss II, Richard Strauss), but it's unusual for two generations of composers to have achieved approximately the same degree of fame and success. Such is the case with Lennox and Michael Berkeley. The elder Berkeley, roughly a contemporary of Michael Tippett's, was overshadowed by Britten and Tippett, but enjoyed a solid reputation in Britain and had a prodigious output. His son Michael (born 1948) has made a name for himself with his orchestral music and his two operas, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, based on Kipling, and an unusually compact and compelling version of Jane Eyre.
Chandos has released six CDs that include music by both Berkeleys, and volume six, the last in the series, is a testimony to the talent of father and son. Lennox Berkeley's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1948) is an immensely appealing work whose neo-Classical clarity and memorably melodic lyricism call Poulenc to mind. Kathryn Stott and Howard Shelley perform it brilliantly, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, led by Richard Hickox. Michael Berkeley is represented here by two pieces, Concerto for Orchestra, "Seascapes," (2004-2005) and Gregorian Variations (1982). The concerto is notable for its richly varied tonal palette and its brilliant orchestration. It's a colorful evocation of the sea, in a thoroughly modern harmonic language. Gregorian Variations, written early in Michael's career, is the work of a less experienced composer, but its inventiveness and striking orchestration mark it as the work of a composer of substance, who has something important to say. The disc (and all of the Berkeley Edition) should be of strong interest to fans of British music of the twentieth century and beyond.