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Working with James Mason

Donald Macleod focuses on Bernard Stevens's composing music for films starring James Mason and Dirk Bogarde.

Bernard Stevens composes music for films starring James Mason and Dirk Bogarde, presented by Donald Macleod

The music of Bernard Stevens has largely been forgotten today, and yet he was rated by some as equal to Benjamin Britten. Stevens shot to fame when he won the Daily Express competition for a victory symphony, a work he'd largely composed in his evenings during the Blitz. With this public acclaim he soon found himself writing for films starring Dirk Bogarde and James Mason, but gave up this career in the film industry later taking up the post of Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music where he remained for over thirty years. Public success was short-lived for Stevens partly due to his Communist ideals, and partly because he wasn't interested in self-promotion. He continued composing until his death in 1983 and left a substantial portfolio of works including symphonies, concertos, chamber and solo piano music, and also opera. Throughout the week his daughter Catherine Stevens joins Donald Macleod to lift the veil over her father's life and music.

During the war Bernard Stevens served in the Royal Army Pay Coprs. In his breaks between work and night-time fire watching duty, he'd compose music including his Piano Trio and also his Symphony of Liberation. This symphony won Stevens a competition launched by the Daily Express and he now found himself in the public eye. It was after the war that he started working in the film industry composing music for films starring James Mason and Dirk Bogarde, but he quickly decided this industry wasn't really for him. In 1948 Bernard Stevens and his wife Bertha purchased a new house in Belsize Park, London, previously owned by the violinist Maz Rostal. In that same year he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music, and within a few months completed his Theme and Variations for String Quartet.

Piano Trio, Op 3 (1st mvt)
Kenneth Sillito, violin
Stephen Orton, cello
Hamish Milne, piano

A Symphony of Liberation, Op 7
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Downes, conductor

Bernard Stevens, arr. A. Williams
Mark of Cain
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox, conductor

Theme and Variations for String Quartet, Op 11
The Delmé String Quartet

Producer Luke Whitlock.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Bernard George Stevens

    Piano Trio

    Performer: Kenneth Sillito. Performer: Stephen Orton. Performer: Hamish Milne.
    • Albany: TROY572.
    • Albany.
    • 1.
  • Bernard George Stevens

    A Symphony of liberation Op.7 - Allegro

    Orchestra: BBC Philharmonic. Conductor: Edward Downes.
    • Medirian: CDE84124.
    • Medirian.
    • 6.
  • Bernard George Stevens

    Mark Of Cain

    Orchestra: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • Chandos: CHAN6611.
    • Chandos.
    • 2.
  • Bernard George Stevens

    Theme and variations Op.11

    Performer: The Delmé String Quartet.
    • UNICORN-KANCHANA : DKP-.
    • UNICORN-KANCHANA.

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