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Home: Choirs and Choral Music: Repertoire and performance:
Matyas Seiber -- another 2005 centenarian
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Mar 2, 2005, 2:49 PM

Post #1 of 3 (64934 views)
Matyas Seiber -- another 2005 centenarian Can't Post

Just about every half-decent choral society in the country must be doing Tippett's "A Child of our Time" this year. Can I call attention to a work by another composer celebrating his centenary?

Matyas Seiber was born in Hungary in 1905 but lived and worked in Britain from 1935. He was killed in a car crash in 1960 while on a lecture tour of South Africa. Many chamber choralists will know his arrangements of Hungarian and Yugoslav folksongs for unaccompanied choir, but he also composed choral-orchestral pieces, of which 'Ulysses' (1947) is generally considered the finest. This is a setting for tenor, chorus and orchestra of a passage from the Joyce novel describing the night sky. It's an extremely atmospheric, expressionist piece showing the influences of Bartok, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, but despite these modernist antecedents it's very well written for voices and would present few difficulties to a choir capable of tackling the Tippett. There's no recording in the catalogue at the moment (one exists with Peter Pears singing the tenor solo) but I'm lucky enough to be singing in a performance, probably the first for forty years, in the Emma Cons Hall, Morley College, London (where the piece was first performed) on Saturday 19th March at 8.00. OK, this is a plug, but it really is an impressive piece and it would be good to have it in the choral repertoire again.

For further information on Seiber, see the centenary website at

and the Schott website at,14714.html

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Mar 13, 2005, 10:57 PM

Post #2 of 3 (64740 views)
Re: [Wilus] Matyas Seiber -- another 2005 centenarian [In reply to] Can't Post

Interested in seeing your comments re Seiber and Ulysses. For a couple of years, until 1960 that is, I sang in Matyas Seiber's choir - the Dorian Singers. I don't remember any names of the members other than Brian Goodenough who sang alto with me. What I do remember is the oft used phrase - after we had sung something through for the first time - "now lets TRY to STAND and sing it" instead of "now lets Stand and Try to sing it"!!

I also remember rehearsing Ulysses and recording it for the BBC in the Maida Vale studios, must have been in 1959. I believe the tenor soloist was Alexander Young.

Wilus is is a wonderful work, with imaginative orchestral scoring and word-painting. In particular the 'night-blue fruit' and 'ever diminishing, ever diminishing, ever diminishing' and the various whispering sections.....they made an incredible impression on my young musical sensibility.

However, I'm not too sure I agree that it is within the scope of every' half-decent choral society'. I recall that the Dorians had quite a few problems, and we were considered no slouch choir at the time. Nevertheless, standards have rocketed in the past years so perhaps Wilus if not far short of being right.

The Seiber Memorial Concert at the Wigmore Hall was a moving tribute to a man who in many ways opened my eyes and ears. I only wish I could be at Morley on March 19th, if someone records it please can I have a copy.


Mar 19, 2005, 6:59 AM

Post #3 of 3 (64643 views)
Re: [JPJM] Matyas Seiber -- another 2005 centenarian [In reply to] Can't Post

I got to know some for Seiber's folksong settings some years ago when I was living in Italy and singing with an Italian choir. I enjoyed singing them very much. Since then no choir I've sung with has performed any of his music, which is a shame. It's good to see that the folksong sets are available on the music hire section of this site from various choirs' libraries.

I'd be very interested to know if there is a recording of all the folksong settings. If not, there must be an opportunity for a choir somewhere. It would also be very good to hear the BBC recording of Ulysses. Does anyone have a copy?




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