I had the Robert still symphony on a Saga LP bought for 12 shillings and 6d years ago and really fell in love with the music. I noticed the LP is on Ebay for £8. We need more recrdings of this English composer
There was a time in the middle of the last century when one tended to steer clear of the `new breed' of contemporary British composers, fearing dense scoring, complex harmonies and worse still, experimentation in 12 note serial technique. Mostly, we dismissed it as `squeaky gate' music. It is interesting then to return to some of this music with the hindsight and experience of forty years or more. All I can now say is, what was all the fuss about? True, the Second Symphony (1965) of Humphrey Searle does indeed make use of the 12 note series along the way (though I suspect one would need a score on one's knee to spot it), but there is little here of which any regular listener need be unduly wary. After all, Searle may indeed have studied in Vienna with Webern, but (like Still) he also came under Gordon Jacob's wing. Not forgetting that here was a man who was later to write scores for Hollywood horror movies and even a `Dr. Who' television series! In its packed twenty minute argument, complete with virtuoso brass writing, pounding Stravinskian rhythms and Bartok-like edginess, lies a darkly profound work of much conflict and inner turmoil. Respite comes in the hauntingly elegaic central `lento' with its tinkling celeste and broad melodic line. But for me the real winner here is the Third Symphony (1960) of Robert Still, magnificently played here by its dedicatees, the LSO under Eugene Goosens. At around half an hour it should appeal to anyone with an interest in twentieth century British orchestral music. The piece is full of mood swings, Mahlerian marches one moment, lyrical woodwind solos the next, and a lush beautifully scored central `largo' that could almost be Elgar (well, almost). Altogether a very welcome return to the catalogue for this Lyrita disc (recorded 1966-1975), which was very much a product of its time. Martin Furber
Wyastone have done a marvellous job in the digital remastering of the Robert Still symphonies. The recordings were good on vinyl, but now the clarity and extended frequencies are even better. Why is Robert Still so poorly represented in the catelogues? Anyone hearing these recordings is bound to ask this question. A triumph of modern technology!