L’uomo dai baffi (The Man with Moustaches) was composed during Berners’ years in Rome and was first performed there in 1918 as part of a programme of ‘balli plastici’ for marionettes devised by a young avant-garde painter Fortunato Depero and the poet Gilbert Clavel. Albert Casella conducted and Berners shared the programme with Bartok, Malipiero and Casella himself.
The piece consists of a short suite of five movements. These are ingeniously arranged from solo piano pieces, though now with new titles alluding to the drama. Opening briskly, Strada d’Oro is taken from the second movement of Fragments Psychologique - Le Rire (Laughter). Then follow, in order, arrangements of the Trois Petites Marches Funèbres, originally entitled Pour un homme d’état (For a Statesman), Pour un canari (For a Canary) and Pour une tante à heritage (For a Rich Aunt). The final (and longest) movement, Pioggia di sigarette, was to become Portsmouth Point. The orchestral version of this piece (‘a symphonic sketch after a drawing by Rowlandson’ - which pre-dates Walton’s overture of the same name by seven years) is lost; but was published as a solo piano piece after Berners’ death.