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He was born in Oxford, England, and educated at the Dragon School, Gresham's School and Merton College, Oxford. In 1927, he went to Paris to study music with Nadia Boulanger, and there he became acquainted with Francis Poulenc, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger and Albert Roussel. Berkeley also studied with Maurice Ravel, often cited as a key influence in Berkeley's technical development as a composer. The French influence would continue to be felt in his music. He worked for the BBC during the Second World War, and later became president of the Performing Rights Society. He was knighted in 1974. He held the chair of Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1946 to 1968, and his pupils there included Richard Rodney Bennett, David Bedford and John Tavener. He enjoyed a long association with Benjamin Britten, another old boy of Gresham's School, with whom he collaborated on a number of works. In later years, his adoption of serialism marked a darker and more brooding style.
His son, Michael Berkeley, is also a composer.
- 1926 - began lessons with Nadia Boulanger.
- 1936 - met Britten at ISCM Festival in Barcelona.
- 1946 - appointed Professor of Composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music.
- 1954 - premiere of his first opera Nelson at Sadler’s Wells.
- 1974 - knighted for Services to Music.
- 1977-83 - President of Cheltenham Festival.
- Nelson, (1951)
- A Dinner Engagement, op.45 (1954)
- Ruth, op.50 (1955-6)
- Serenade, for string orchestra (1938-9)
- Symphony No. 1 (1936-40)
- Divertimento (1943)
- Piano Concerto in B-flat major, op.29 (1947-8)
- Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, op.30 (1948)
- Symphony No. 2 (1958, revised 1976)
- Symphony No. 3, in one movement (1968-9)
- Sinfonia Concertante, for oboe and chamber orchestra (1972-3)
- Voices of the Night, op.86 (1973)
- Guitar Concerto op.88
- Symphony No. 4 (1977-8)
- A Festival Anthem, op.21 no.2 (1945)
- Crux fidelis, op.43 no.1 (1955)
- Look up, sweet babe, op.43 no. 2 (1955)
- Missa Brevis, op.57 (1960)
- Mass for five voices, op.64 (1964)
- Three Latin Motets, op.83 no.1 (1972)
- The Lord is my shepherd, op.91 no.1 (1975)
- Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, op.99 (1980)
- Four Poems of St Teresa of Ávila, op.27, for contralto and string orchestra (1947)
- Three Greek Songs, op.38 (1953)
- Five Poems by W. H. Auden, op.58
- String Quartet No. 1, op.6
- String Quartet No. 2, op.15
- String Quartet No. 3, op.76
- Sonata in D Minor for Viola and Piano, Op.22 (1946)
- Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano, op.44 (1952)
- Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and String Quartet, op.47 (1954)
- Duo for Cello and Piano
- Three Pieces, op.2 (1935)
- Piano Sonata in A major, op.20 (1941-5)
- Six Preludes, op.23 (1945)
- Three Mazurkas, op.31 no.1 (1939-49)
- Quatre pièces pour la guitare (1928)
- Sonatina, op.52 no.1 (1957)
- Theme and Variations, op.77 (1970)
- A Dinner Engagement - Chandos CHAN10219
- Missa Brevis - Naxos 8.557277
- Serenade for Strings - Chandos CHAN 9981
- Lennox Berkeley's homepage at Chester Music
- The Lennox Berkeley Society
-  Performance of Duo for cello and piano