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Berkeley, Michael
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Michael Berkeley

(Born; London, 29 May 1948). English composer, son of Lennox Berkeley. He studied composition, singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music, but it was not until his late twenties, when he began to study with Richard Rodney Bennett, that he began to concentrate exclusively on composition. Up until 1982 he was writing in a broadly tonal idiom and the climax of this period was the oratorio Or shall we die? to a text by Ian McEwan.

Since then Michael Berkeley's music has gradually undergone a very considerable change, and in pieces like Songs of Awakening Love (premiered at the 1986 Cheltenham Festival), his language has become more distinctive, with the emotional quality of the early pieces integrated into a tauter musical idiom. A harder-edged sound began to emerge in works like Keening for the saxophonist John Harle, Fierce Tears I and II for the oboist Nicholas Daniel, the Quartet Study, and the two string pieces Coronach and Gethsemani Fragment.

In 1991 the Clarinet Concerto and a BBC commission for Lontano, Entertaining Master Punch, gave a foretaste of the richly-coloured score for the 1993 opera Baa Baa Black Sheep, which drew an enthusiastic critical response at its Cheltenham Festival premiere and subsequent CD recording. More recently, his Magnetic Field was premiered by the Vanbrugh Quartet, the Nash Ensemble gave the first performance of Winter Fragments, the Takacs Quartet premiered Torque and Velocity (in a Cheltenham Music Society concert), and Secret Garden was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra. Michael Berkeley's first BBC Proms commission, The Garden of Earthly Delights was premiered by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in August 1998, with a live relay on BBC Radio 3 and BBC2 Television.

1995 was his first year as Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music, a position he has been invited to renew through to the year 2000. His Radio 3 programme Private Passions and appearances on television reflect his own passion for bringing a wider range of music to a wider public audience.

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