HUMPHREY SEARLE (1915-1983): Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 “Venetian” (BBC Symphony Orchestra; John Pritchard. broadcast july 12, 1971), Symphony No. 5, Op. 43 (Hallé Orchestra; Lawrence Leonard. broad. March 12, 1966), Zodiac Variations for Small Orchestra, Op. 53 (Orchestra Nova of London; Lawrence Foster. broad. July 7, 1970), Labyrinth, Op. 56 (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Louis Frémaux. broad. Nov. 23, 1971). Mono.
Catalogue Number: 10S009
Description: Comparison of the completion and broadcast dates, let alone the live premieres, of these works demonstrates the esteem in which Searle was held at the height of his career, and this and the quality of the music makes his all but complete disappearance from concert, broadcast and recording schedules in his later years and since as inexplicable as it is distressing. Despite his commitment to dodecaphony he retained a romantic sense of expression, as these eloquent, expertly wrought large-scale (though economical in duration) canvases make amply evident. The dark, dramatic 3rd Symphony is the antithesis of 'picture postcard Venice'. Inspired by a visit to the city, it seems to take its cue from its cruel, turbulent history rather than its picturesque aspects, with funereal and grotesque motifs and a tenebrous, tragic finale. The 5th Symphony is dedicated to the memory of Webern. A huge orchestra is used pointillistically, and the parallels are obvious, but so are the departures, in the form of expressionistic intensity and vehement, almost Mahlerian tutti. The Variations have an interesting structure, elements of each variation are used as material for the next, so a kind of cross-referencing goes on throughout the piece. The characteristics of the variations are vaguely related (as something of an afterthought) to the signs of the zodiac; some are little abstract, pointillistic mechanisms, while others generate considerable atmosphere and dramatic expression. Labyrinth is an impressive, dark tone-poem for very large orchestra, employed with the utmost virtuosity. It draws inspiration from the myth of Daedelus' labyrinth, and some episodes in its dramatic tapestry apparently have some illustrative intent, but the composer's quote from Michael Ayrton's book 'The Maze Maker'; "Its materials are at once dense, impenetrable, translucent and illusory" aptly describes the work's forbidding, ambiguous yet emotionally compelling nature.