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CD: Scott Brothers Duo

Duos for Harmonium and Piano
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Six Duos for Harmonium and Piano Op. 8 (1858) [32:33]
Danse Macabre - Poème Symphonique Op. 40 (1874) (arr. Jonathan Scott) [7:38]
Charles-François GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Méditation - Ave Maria
(1853) (arr. Jonathan Scott) [5:22]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (1888) (arr. Jonathan Scott) [3:20]
Félix Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
in A major Op. 26 (1870) [4:11]
Priére in F major Op. 16 (1862) [4:06]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Prélude, Fugue et Variation
Op. 18 (1868/1880) [10:38]
Gabriel Urbain FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve
Op. 7 No. 1 (arr. Jonathan Scott) [3:23]
Jonathan Scott (harmonium); Tom Scott (piano)
rec. Peel Hall, University of Salford, Greater Manchester, 30 November 2008
Experience Classicsonline

If you are expecting mere curiosity value here you are wrong. This is a disc crammed full of unexpected musical delights which opens a window on a combination of instruments unfortunately rarely heard in the concert hall. Despite the efforts of enthusiasts and the fascinating contents of the Museum of Victorian Reed Organs and Harmoniums in Saltaire (near Leeds and Bradford) the harmonium occupies at best a minor position in the hearts of many musicians. Whilst this is partly understandable when you hear some elderly and poorly maintained chapel instruments, the glory of an instrument like the 1880 Victor Mustel harmonium heard here is undeniable. When heard in combination with a Steinway piano in any of the Saint-Saëns duos here you will be amazed at the richness and variety of texture of which they are capable.

The Saint-Saëns Duos and the Guilmant Pastorale were indeed originally written for this combination, and the Franck and Guilmant Priére were arranged for it by their composers. They all date from the height of the instrument’s popularity and of the career of Mustel, the greatest harmonium maker. The Duos are especially worth hearing, once again demonstrating the composer’s imagination and craftsmanship even in such very early works. The first, for instance, starts and ends with the harmonium sustaining chords while the piano dashes off with fiery scale passages, and has a fugal section in the middle in which the instruments are more evenly treated. The overall effect is invigorating and exciting. The second in contrast has a gentle melody on the harmonium accompanied by the piano. Each piece has its own varied character, and as a group they add up to a diverting Suite. Perhaps they are not the composer at his greatest but they are still well worth hearing. The Franck is better known today in either its original version for organ or for solo piano, but it too works wonderfully well as a duet. The more intimate sound of the harmonium seems more appropriate to its character than does the organ.

Several of the works here are arranged by Jonathan Scott, who has managed to retain their essential character and even to shed new light on them. The Danse Macabre in particular works surprisingly well. sounding just as it might as if the composer of The Carnival of the Animals had transcribed it for these instruments himself. Uniquely in my experience they make the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria into a thing of rare beauty rather than a joke in poor taste.

All of this is aided by the clear and forward recording and the constantly lively playing of the two Scott brothers, who I understand perform also as piano duettists and as soloists. I thoroughly enjoyed this disc which would make an admirable present for a lover of organ or piano music who thinks that they have heard it all, or even better to keep for your own enjoyment.

John Sheppard






























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