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This interview is taken from Poetry Nation 2 Number 2, 1974.

Lennox Berkeley In Conversation C.B. Cox, Michael Schmidt, and Alan Young


LENNOX BERKELEY was born in Oxford on 12 May 1908. He was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, St. George's School, Harpenden, and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied languages. From 1927 to 1988 he lived in Paris and worked for some time as a student of Nadia Boulanger. During these years he met several French composers, including Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger. In the mid-1980s he returned to England. He has taught composition at the Royal Academy of Music for almost thirty years.

Berkeley's compositions include many songs and choral works, as well as the Stabat Mater (1946), Four Songs of St. Teresa of Avila (1947), and the Magnificat (1968) - all for voices and orchestra. Nelson, his only full-length opera, was written in 1958, and he has composed three one-act operas, A Dinner Engagement, Ruth, and The Castaway. His instrumental works include three symphonies, several concertos, and numerous pieces for orchestra, chamber groups and solo instruments.

We began by asking him about his early musical experiences.

Berkeley: My first real awareness of music as a child came through my father. He wasn't a musician, though he was passionately fond of music. He joined the navy when he was thirteen years old, so he had never had the time to learn an instrument, but when he retired from the navy he used to spend time playing a pianola - you know, one of those things which you peddle? This was before ...


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