Various Artists

Robert Still: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4; Humphrey Searle: Symphony No. 2

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As further proof that England was far and away the most fecund county in the world when it came to birthing 20th century symphonists, Lyrita has released a disc including two symphonies by Robert Still, his Third from 1960 and Fourth from 1964, and Humphrey Searle's Second from 1958. Though clearly distinct works, they cannot be said to be especially distinguished. Still is much more tonally oriented than Searle, along with being more conventionally melodic and traditionally structured even in his one-movement Fourth, while Searle, famous for his scholarly work on Bartók, is the more overtly modernist, with tougher themes, sharper harmonies, and more adventurous structures. Even in these well-played performances by Eugene Goossens and the London Symphony Orchestra (Still's Third), Myer Fredman and the Royal Philharmonic (Still's Fourth), and Josef Krips and the London Philharmonic (Searle's Second), these works do not rise to the level of achievement of those by at least a dozen other 20th century English symphonists, including Alwyn, Arnold, Bax, Brian, Elgar, Moeran, Parry, Rubbra, Stanford, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, and Walton. This disc is sure to be embraced by ardent Anglophiles, but general listeners may want to give it a pass. Lyrita's mid-‘60s stereo sound is just about as good as it gets: clear, clean, transparent, and present.

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