Commissioned by the Park Lane Group

People hide their Love (Wu-ti); The Autumn Wind (Wu-ti); Dreaming of a Dead Lady (Shen-Yo); Late Spring (Yang Knang) The Riverside Village (Ssu-K'ung Shu)

  • medium voice/pf
  • 8 min
  • translated by A Waley, R Kotewell and NL Smith

Programme Note

Lennox Berkeley’s Five Chinese Songs, Op. 78 were written in 1971, to a commission from the Park Lane Group and are dedicated to Meriel and Peter Dickinson. The translations used are by Arthur Wales (Nos. 1,2, and 3) and Robert Kotewall and Norman L. Smith (Nos. 4 and 5).

Sir Lennox was very much drawn to the severely simple but nevertheless highly emotional characteristics of the Chinese words. Throughout his career two of the most prominent stylistic hallmarks have been an understatement of expression and a lucidity of texture. The opportunity to make sparing use of notes is therefore gladly taken. The resulting delicate vocal lines are set into relief quite beautifully by the alternation of harp-like figurations with gentle counterpoint in the piano.

The Chinese texts give the cycle as a whole an air of melancholy. The first three poems refer to the plight of separated lovers whilst the cycle ends with two verses which concern loneliness.

© James Rushton