Classical Music: Music on Radio
Friday 14 June 1996
What evidently side-swiped his busy career - as those of his contemporaries Peter Racine Fricker and Iain Hamilton - was the much-hyped rise of the next generation of Goehr, Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle, Williamson, Bennett and Maw in the early 1960s. When Searle's crowning opus, the opera Hamlet, reached performance in 1968-69, it was equivocally received and, since his death in 1982, he has been little performed. High time, then, for a reassessment - though whether simply pumping out three symphonies in succession, as Radio 3 did last Tuesday evening, is likely to have revived his reputation, might be doubted. Nos 2 and 3, dating from 1957 and 1959 respectively, sounded, even in punchy readings by the BBC Scottish SO under Alun Francis, pretty much like cuts off the same roll: heavily descending serial themes over pedal-points, sinister fanfares on stabbing minor seconds and violent climaxes sounding, after all this time, not a little like the Hammer Horror film scores of the period (though, of course, many of those were composed by Lutyens). The one-movement Fifth Symphony (1964), in memory of Webern, proved more diaphanous in texture and substance. But any one of these symphonies alone might have made more impact programmed with the more lyrical side of Searle - as in the Poem for 22 strings (1950) or the Aubade for horn and strings (1955), which still haunt this pair of ears - or, again, with the wit of his Edward Lear setting The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (1951).
The programme was not helped by the blandness with which Geoffrey Baskerville read his introductory script - as if introducing Searle to schoolchildren. But at least it was modestly informative, which is more than one can always expect from what is currently among Radio 3's most limply presented slots, Hear and Now.
Granted, an up-to-the-minute digest of new music may sometimes have to change its content after Radio Times has gone to print. Last Friday's session from 10pm to midnight was supposed to begin with a new recording of Martin Butler's 1992 Proms commission O Rio, a brilliant, dance-like piece of a Copland-esque ebullience too rare in British music, followed by Richard Barrett's far darker, more complex three-movement Vanity for orchestra. In the event, the programme started with Vanity followed by a half-hour improvisation by Barrett himself from the recent LCM Festival of Experimental Music. Then there was a discussion about IRCAM, another interminable improvisation by the Australian quintet Polwechsel, and only towards 11.45pm did O Rio heave into earshot.
Yet at no point did the young presenter Sarah Walker - presumably chosen to appeal to the kind of hardline yoof that reads The Wire - explain the change of order or tell us at what time we might now expect to hear the promised items. This has happened so often recently on Hear and Now that one might be tempted to denounce it as a plain discourtesy to listeners but for the suspicion that the producers must have decided that the only way to keep people listening at all is to keep them guessing.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Game of Thrones actress begs for 'other princess work' after Myrcella Baratheon part is recast
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming August 2014
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy
Star Wars Episode 7: Simon Pegg hints at role
Palestinian artists transform smoke-filled Gaza into symbol of resistance
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >