Author Topic: Humphrey Searle?  (Read 12180 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #40 on: March 26, 2009, 12:15:38 PM »
If anyone doubts that a serial symphony can be gloriously beautiful then I implore them to listen to Searle's magnificent Symphony No.2 now re-released on this Lyrita cd!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #41 on: April 28, 2009, 01:18:29 PM »
I have to admit that I find Searle's music rather turgid but I'm sure that is my loss. I struggle with Frankel but find his music more rewarding.

I have revised my views here, having just heard the reissued Lyrita CD containing Searle's Second Symphony. I now think that I completely misjudged it and find it to be quite a gripping, darkly powerful work - much more approachable than I previously thought.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #42 on: April 28, 2009, 02:45:04 PM »
I have revised my views here, having just heard the reissued Lyrita CD containing Searle's Second Symphony. I now think that I completely misjudged it and find it to be quite a gripping, darkly powerful work - much more approachable than I previously thought.

Delighted to hear that, Jeffrey! I ttally agree with your assessment. Krips does a superb job with the 2nd. What a glorious slow movement with the soaring string melody accompanied by those baleful brass chords! A serial symphony to cherish ;D

If only we could have the Boult 1st reissued as well!

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #43 on: January 14, 2012, 01:38:43 PM »
Two years on down the road...I am reviving this thread with a cross-posting of what I wrote recently elsewhere:

"As I asserted in my recent post on 'English Contemporary Composers in 1961' Humphrey Searle is one of the forgotten generation of British composers.

Together with Elizabeth Lutyens, he was one of the very first British composers to adopt the serial techniques of the Second Viennese School.  Unlike Lutyens however, Searle continued to compose in the traditional forms of both the symphony and the concerto. Moreover, Searle always insisted that at heart he was a 'romantic composer'. He became a leading authority on the music of Liszt and was largely responsible for a re-evaluation of the music, particularly the later music, of that great 19th century composer.

Although Searle studied briefly with the 'conservative' composer/teachers Gordon Jacob and John Ireland, it was the impact of hearing Alban Berg's "Wozzeck"
(premiered, remember, in Britain by Sir Adrian Boult ;D) and the five months he spent studying with Webern that had a much greater impact on his future compositional idiom and technique.

Searle composed five symphonies between 1952 and 1964, two piano concertos(1944 and 1955), three operas, various other orchestral and chamber works and a series of compositions for speakers, chorus and orchestra.

During the 1950s and early 1960s Searle may well have been regarded as at the forefront of the avant-garde of British music but by the 60s others were catching him up and indeed going much much further in terms of musical experimentation. Indeed, by the 1970s Searle's music was already beginning to disappear. The BBC-for reasons I cannot discover-no longer sponsored or broadcast performances. (I know from my own collection of taped music just how much Fricker was broadcast in the 70s, yet virtually no orchestral Searle.)

I first heard any Searle on the Decca LP released in 1960 which had on it a performance of Searle's 1st Symphony(1952-53) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Boult. Although Boult may not have had much sympathy with the music, the performance of a work of quite shattering power and violence is  superb.
In 1975 Lyrita re-issued the Boult recording on LP coupled with a performance of Searle's Symphony No.2(1956-58) given by the London Philharmonic under the late (and greatly under-estimated) Josef Krips. The Krips/2nd made it onto a Lyrita cd in 2009, coupled with Robert Still's Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4, but the Boult/1st remains locked away somewhere-which is a really appalling disgrace >:(

In the mid 1990s CPO-to its eternal credit-recorded all five Searle symphonies with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Alun Francis. These are fine performances but do not replace Boult or Krips in my estimation.

Now, there are those who regard serialism with utter distaste or indeed genuine abhorrence. I make no secret of the fact that I prefer tonality to atonality and have decidedly jaundiced views of the Schoenbergian revolution. I am a great lover of the romantic ardour of the symphonies of Richard Arnell and of Stanley Bate ;D I have read Searle's symphonies described as 'ugly'.

At the same time however I can accept and embrace the proposition that it is possible for a 'serial symphony' to contain both power and beauty. Benjamin Frankel's symphonies are "less serial" than Searle's( ;D ;D) and I admire them greatly.

There is no doubting that Searle's Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 and 5 are difficult to appreciate fully(as, of course, are the later symphonies of Egon Wellesz, who claimed to have turned his back on dodecaphony ;D). But I really defy anyone to deny that the Lento, solenne finale of Searle's Second Symphony does not contain passages of soaring, romantic beauty. And yes, of course, there is plenty of 'power and violence' of shattering impact in the First and Second Symphonies but of almost Brucknerian grandeur.

If I had to compare Searle with a younger symphonist the composer I would instance would probably be Alun Hoddinott, whose music exhibits the same 'darkness' in idiom, often the same degree of difficulty for the listener. Hoddinott had however the great advantage of a teaching 'power-base' in Wales and in the BBC in Cardiff and the many Welsh Music Festivals organizations willing to support him and perform his music.

I know that there are at least a few members here who do respect Searle's music. I cannot say that I do often return to the later symphonies but Nos. 1 and 2, to my mind, are masterpieces and towering achievements in the British music canon of the 1950s which should not be ignored or neglected.

Nor should Searle's other music. It deserves to be heard again so that the older amongst us( ;D) and the younger generations of music-lovers who will probably be totally unfamiliar with his name, let alone his music, can be given the opportunity for a re-evaluation."




Offline kyjo

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #44 on: May 13, 2019, 03:09:55 PM »
If anyone doubts that a serial symphony can be gloriously beautiful then I implore them to listen to Searle's magnificent Symphony No.2 now re-released on this Lyrita cd!

I just listened to Searle's Symphony no. 2 (Lyrita recording) and fully concur with Colin's comments from ten years ago. What a fine work - compact, tense, gripping, and not without mysterious beauty in the second movement. This symphony is proof that serial music doesn't have to sound as ugly as the 2nd Viennese School (there, I said it)! IIRC, Walton and Alwyn also used 12-tone rows in their 2nd and 3rd symphonies, respectively.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #45 on: May 13, 2019, 03:25:26 PM »
I just listened to Searle's Symphony no. 2 (Lyrita recording) and fully concur with Colin's comments from ten years ago. What a fine work - compact, tense, gripping, and not without mysterious beauty in the second movement. This symphony is proof that serial music doesn't have to sound as ugly as the 2nd Viennese School (there, I said it)! IIRC, Walton and Alwyn also used 12-tone rows in their 2nd and 3rd symphonies, respectively.

I’m sorry but the Second Viennese School does not sound ugly all of the time. Sure there’s some works that aren’t pleasing to the ears, but how can you call a work like Berg’s Lyrische Suite or Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 ugly? There are many forms of beauty and it doesn’t always come with an opulent surface.
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Offline Irons

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #46 on: May 13, 2019, 10:59:06 PM »
I just listened to Searle's Symphony no. 2 (Lyrita recording) and fully concur with Colin's comments from ten years ago. What a fine work - compact, tense, gripping, and not without mysterious beauty in the second movement. This symphony is proof that serial music doesn't have to sound as ugly as the 2nd Viennese School (there, I said it)! IIRC, Walton and Alwyn also used 12-tone rows in their 2nd and 3rd symphonies, respectively.

I agree, a fine work. The last conductor you would think of, Josef Krips!
You must have a very good opinion of yourself to write a symphony - John Ireland.

Offline kyjo

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #47 on: May 16, 2019, 06:48:51 PM »
I’m sorry but the Second Viennese School does not sound ugly all of the time. Sure there’s some works that aren’t pleasing to the ears, but how can you call a work like Berg’s Lyrische Suite or Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 ugly? There are many forms of beauty and it doesn’t always come with an opulent surface.

Both Berg's Lyric Suite and Webern's Five Movements were overall quite unpleasant listening experiences for me, I'm afraid. I acknowledge that they are very well written, but they simply don't appeal to me. Now, Schoenberg's and Webern's early, late-romantic works are quite a different story!  ;)
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #48 on: May 16, 2019, 06:52:50 PM »
Both Berg's Lyric Suite and Webern's Five Movements were overall quite unpleasant listening experiences for me, I'm afraid. I acknowledge that they are very well written, but they simply don't appeal to me. Now, Schoenberg's and Webern's early, late-romantic works are quite a different story!  ;)

'To you' being the operative phrase here. ;)
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Offline Christo

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Re: Humphrey Searle?
« Reply #49 on: June 03, 2019, 10:14:38 PM »
This symphony is proof that serial music doesn't have to sound as ugly as the 2nd Viennese School (there, I said it)!
Hear, hear!  :D
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948