MÁTYÁS SEIBER (1905-1960): Ulysses for Tenor, Chorus and Orchesra (Alexander Young [tenor], BBC Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra; David Atherton. rec. May 21,1972), Elegy for Viola and Small Orchestra (Cecil Aronowitz [viola], London Philharmonic Orchestra; Mátyás Seiber. rec. 1960. Decca LP release), 3 Fragments from “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” for Narrator, Chorus and Ensemble (Peter Pears [narrator], Dorian Singers, Melos Ensemble; Seiber. rec. 1960. Decca LP release.).
Catalogue Number: 07R046
Description: Joyce, that most musical of writers (Anthony Burgess, himself a virtuoso craftsman in language who measured himself ‘hopelessly against [Joyce] each time I sit down to write fiction’ points out that he 'as a typical Dubliner, was brought up on music') wrote in a way that already makes its own music on the page. This quality appealed to Seiber, who wrote of Joyce's impact on him as an early influence. The inexhaustible elaborations around an idea in Joyce's Ulysses, growing and evolving by association or simply the exuberant joy of punning homophones and alliterations provide an ideal text for what is in effect a five-movement choral symphony, a major work by any standards. The work is tonal, related to the English choral tradition but Bartókian in its use of dissonance; it has somewhat in common with Constant Lambert's masterpiece, Summer's Last Will and Testament. The work introduces and then sets the gorgeous passage beginning 'The Heaventree of stars ...', with a question-and-response interaction between soloist and chorus, and a setting of exquisitely crafted orchestration. Three Fragments is less opulent, but no less expressive; here the chorus is wordless, the harmony sparer and more ambiguous, the musical accompaniment emphasizing the irrepressible flood of Joyce's words. The Elegy packs a huge range of expressive content into eight tautly structured minutes, in a meticulously organized structure and an harmonic language that seems equally indebted to Busoni and Bartók. Texts included.