Scarmolin was Italian-born but came with his family to New Jersey when he
was 10. Early infatuation with atonalism was soon abandoned and he returned
to composition in a richly tonal idiom. There are some 1100 compositions
and a Scarmolin Trust who, I hope, will go on to support recordings of his
other works including the symphonies.
The Dance from The Caliph is a typical Nautch Girl dance - swaying
and winding seductively in Arabian pirouette and with a lightly convulsive
Hispanic snap (yes, complete with castanets). Over it all hangs a Verdian
The Three Miniatures are lightly handled in the manner of Alfven's
Midsommarvarka and Shepherd Fennel's Dance (Balfour Gardiner)
The Preludes (orch by John Sichel): Night at Sea bursts into
flowering filmic lyricism in a way suggestive of Frank Bridge's
Summer, The Story of My Heart or Enter Spring and the
magnificent sea music of Philip Sainton (Moby Dick): salty memories
indeed of marine glory and sun-dappled waves. Snowdrift is tentative
and lightly impressionistic. White Meadows dates from 1954 unlike
the other two preludes and rates high on aestival lyricism.
The Sunlit Pool floats in warm melody with again a touch of the sunnier Bridge
and of Bax in Happy Forest and Spring Fire. It also reminded
me of another composer whose music I have encountered recently: Alfred Hill.
Hill's multitude of short orchestral poems are often in a similar impressionistic
Invocation announces itself as a more serious piece with ambitious emotional
span and Debussian aspirations. Its opening bars, which rear up several times,
have a Brahmsian weight and storminess and a Rózsa-like exaltation.
The Folk Song Variations are for strings and take as their subject
a Piedmontese song of simple pleasures played with a hint of Palm Court schmaltz.
Also for strings the Arioso resounds in Elgarian eloquence similar
to the Serenade.
The trumpet Concert Piece is cheekily perky and winningly positive
even in repose; not at all the sacerdotal role cherished by Alan Hovhaness
in his similar pieces.
Prelude shares some of the atmosphere of The Sunlit Pool and,
pace the notes, seems written in the same warm drifting fragrance
which awakes close to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and at other
times near Delius's smaller tone poems. A more colourful title perhaps exists
in Scarmolin's archives.
The Czech musicians seem to handle this unfamiliar material well although
once or twice I wondered if a more vibrant pulse might have helped the music
Intrinsically this is attractive music of a largely light character.
The notes, by John Sichel, are helpful in providing the orientation we need
with this unfamiliar music: attractive - definitely - but not arresting.
I certainly would like to hear more. If you have enjoyed the British light
music series then you will want this and are unlikely to be disappointed.
NOTE TO NAXOS: I do hope that the series advisers will consider a
recording of the music of Leroy Robertson. His violin concerto is a work
of a Hansonian caste and virtuosity - an easy winner.