Video Pick of the Week: Emmanuel Sowicz Plays Lennox Berkeley’s ‘Quatre Pièces’

Here’s another outstanding video produced by the good folks at Open Strings Berlin. This one features English guitarist Emmanuel Sowicz (showcased last fall in a news item about his winning First Prize at the 2018 IGF London International Guitar Competition in London), who plays a wonderful, but still relatively unknown piece by British composer Lennox Berkeley (1903–1989), called Quatre Pièces. Berkeley is best known in the classical guitar world for his 1957 Sonatina, written for and first recorded by Julian Bream.

In a note accompanying the link to the video, Sowicz wrote: “The Quatre Pièces were composed c. 1927, so they seem to be one of the earliest guitar pieces written by a non-guitarist composer, soon after de Falla’s 1920 Homenaje: Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy. These were written for Andrés Segovia while Berkeley was living in Paris studying with Nadia Boulanger, however it seems Segovia never played them. They were found in his archive in 2001 and published by Bèrben soon after, which seems quite lucky for us.”

I first heard the work on Roberto Moronn Perez’s revelatory 2017 album Viva Segovia—one  of three volumes highlighting pieces in the Segovia archive that were written for the Maestro but which he did not not record, for whatever reason—but Sowicz notes, “I first heard the Quatre Pièces on Graham Anthony Devine’s fantastic Naxos album, British Guitar Music [2005]. However, I recently found and also enjoyed Roberto Moronn Perez’ recording. I came to learn them myself when Julian Berkeley, Lennox’s son, and his partner Tony Scotland, kindly gifted me a copy of the music.”

It’s a great piece that deserves to be heard more!  —Blair Jackson