John is enthusiastic about the four pieces on the disc and I can understand that without being able to summon up quite the same enthusiasm. I applaud the inclusion on the disc of the Zodiac Variations and 'Labyrinth'-neither of which was previously commercially available-but I find all four of the works "difficult and tough" (as Peter Racine Fricker admitted). Paul Conway quotes Fricker in his-as ever-magnificently comprehensive, informative and helpful booklet notes.
There is a powerful immediacy about the Searle First and Second symphonies which has always deeply impressed me but I find the (only slightly) later music very demanding.
I would have liked, if possible, to have had a comparison between the Alun Francis versions of Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 on CPO with the renderings by Pritchard and Leonard in these broadcast recordings. It is still a source of some puzzlement to me that Lyrita should (as in the case of the Arthur Butterworth Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4) have chosen to issue old mono recordings when modern versions are available. I can fully understand the merits of alternative versions but I would have thought that Lyrita's focus-at least initially- would have been on issuing music otherwise unavailable-as with their Fricker, Wordsworth and Cooke releases for example.
One point though intrigues me. What justification is there for labelling the Symphony No.3 as "Venetian"? I have never heard the work so previously described. Paul Conway does not explicitly refer to the symphony by this title; nor did CPO, nor does Searle's publisher Schotts. The work was composed both in Venice and in Greece and the first movement was re-written as a consequence of Searle's visit to Mycenae. In his autobiography Searle does refer to a "Venetian symphony" but then qualifies that by recounting the influences of his visit to Greece on the composition. I am dubious about the justification in actually labelling the symphony "Venetian".....but I am of course keen to hear if that title can be defended.
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