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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Southampton postgraduates mount world premiere

Published: 4 November 2016
Southampton postgraduate researcher Christopher D Lewis

On October 15, the historic National Trust property of Mottisfont hosted the first public performance of a newly rediscovered work by the English composer Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-89), a major figure in British music of the mid-20th century. Southampton Music postgraduate Christopher D. Lewis premiered Berkeley's Suite for the Harpsichord (1930), as part of his research on The Making of the Modern Harpsichord project, funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in partnership with the National Trust. Lewis's edition of the piece, completed as part of his doctoral portfolio, has recently been published by Chester.


The world premiere performance was supported by research conducted by Kate Hawnt, whose own CDA-funded work on the project has revealed the connections between Berkeley, Mottisfont , and Raymond Russell, a former occupant of the house whose advocacy for the harpsichord was a major force in the instrument's 20th-century revival. The public event mounted by the two PGRs, supported by the Department of Music and the Lennox Berkeley Society as well as the National Trust, linked their research, performance skills and the musical heritage of Mottisfont, resulting in a unique and engaging evening.

Mottisfont rarely opens its doors to visitors after dark so this was an exciting opportunity for the audience to experience the property in a new way. Kate Hawnt began the event with a stimulating talk about her research, linking Raymond Russell, his harpsichord collection and the composer Lennox Berkeley to Mottisfont. After a brief interlude for canapés and champagne, Christopher Lewis's performance of the world premiere of Berkeley's Suite figured on a programme of works exploring the harpsichord's modern history, including pieces by Herbert Howells and Peter Dickinson as well as earlier music demonstrating the historical models for this repertoire. The event forms part of a longer-term project to bring Mottisfont's rich and fascinating musical history to the public in new ways, helping to bring music more strongly into the legacy of the house as a centre of artistic and cultural patronage in the 20th century and into its artistic programme today.



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