Humphrey Searle (1915-1982) studied composition with Gordon Jacob, John
Ireland and Anton Webern. His output includes 3 operas, 6 symphonies and a sizeable
catalog of chamber and vocal music. Two Practical Cats was composed in the early
1950's, and is dedicated to Ian Wallace. The scoring for narrator, flute doubling on
piccolo, guitar and 'cello, is the same as in Searle's Edward Lear setting of 1951, The
Owl and the Pussycat. Two Practical Cats sets two poems from T. S. Eliot's Old
Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). Eliot composed these light-hearted verses for
his god-children Tom Faber and Alison Tandy. Many Eliot authorities point to the
autobiographical references that are contained within these poems.
In Macavity: The Mystery Cat Searle's understated accompaniment is the perfect
foil for the deceitfully suave feline. The re-current tremolo patterns and the mock terror
of the "Macavity" refrain lend a mysteriously comic feel to the "monster of depravity."
In Growltiger's Last Stand Searle's accompaniment is more varied and descriptive: the
undulating guitar figure for the rocking barge; the flute and cello duo portraying the
lovers; the mock Chinese music in microtones; the piccolo's fireworks; and finally
Growltiger's walking of the plank.
notes by Robert Arctor, liner notes, Bridge Records BCD 9022
His biography on the web
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