Cyril Scott's music is another slumbering giant. We
know hardly even one per cent of his output. By 2010 we can hope to
have CDs of the major works. The Alchemist was revealed as a
richly impressionistic score when broadcast in highlights by the BBC
during 1995 - Musica Britannica year). By reputation and report
works such as the concertos for violin, cello and oboe will be well
worth hearing as will the Third Symphony The Muses. The two piano
concertos were recorded by John Ogdon and conducted by Bernard Herrmann
on Lyrita in the 1970s. In the same time-frame I rather hope that these
two works will be issued coupled on a single CD but rest assured this
is speculation by me - nothing more.
Scott, for all his exotic reputation, was born and
brought up in Birkenhead just across the Mersey from Liverpool. He was
not that far away from New Brighton where Bantock, at the turn of the
century (19th into 20th), developed a full symphony orchestra from a
pier-end band and a swashbucklingly daring avant-garde season of concerts
before a career move to Birmingham.
This present ABC harvest of largely charm-infused pieces
have about them more than a whiff of the salon and the piano stool though
none of them are exactly beginners' pieces.
The recordings have been around a while. Not that they
have been 'in the can', unissued since 1991 when Dennis Hennig went
into the studio. On the contrary they were issued pretty promptly the
same year on the full price Dutch Etcetera label. All but one piece
from this disc were on that CD. Clearly Etcetera decided that 79+ minutes
was beyond the technical tolerance of the day. Things have moved on
and ABC have been able to add the Prairie Pieces which were taken
down at the same one day session. This is their first issue.
All the famous Scott works are here along with many
that are rarities. The Two Pieces Op. 47 include a piece that
dogged Scott's recital life in much the same way that Rachmaninov's
famous Prelude haunted its composer being constantly under pressure
from audiences to play it. With the exception of the Sonata and the
Five Poems the various pieces on this disc are delicate blooms
and character pieces rather than being dramatic or epic. A Debussian
delicacy veering towards Messiaen and Scriabin can be heard in the Five
Poems whose titles are Poppies, The Garden of Soul-Sympathy,
Bells, Twilight of the Year and Paradise Birds.
If the charm quotient is high I must also make it clear that Scott treads
the line so well that he avoids the twee. This is a tough act to pull
off but with Hennig, Scott seems to be in trusty hands. I never once
had the impression that Hennig was smiling condescendingly. The temptation
might have been irresistible if this had been Ketèlbey or any
one of hundreds of other light music merchants of the early 20th century.
Lotusland and Water Wagtail were made famous by Scott
himself and later by his protégée Esther Fisher who, it
seems, broadcast the pieces several times for the BBC Third Programme.
The Sonata is big, florid and plungingly romantic though
it is undermined by themes that just elude the memory. It is certainly
a much more directly expressed piece than the much later Third Sonata
recorded by Raphael Terroni of the British Music Society.
This is not the only Scott piano recital in the catalogue.
A largely complementary rather than duplicating disc was set down by
one of CMOTW's longest-standing reviewers, Chris Howell, and I am sure
an e-mail to me will provide enquirers with contents and ordering details.
If you are looking for more Scott you will need to
move to a British Music Society analogue cassette which includes the
Piano Sonata No. 3 as moodily played by Raphael Terroni (I declare my
interest as a BMS member and editor of its newsletter). You can order
a copy (provided there are still some left) by contacting Stephen Trowell
on UK (0)1708 224795 at 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, ESSEX RM14 3DE in
the UK - no e-mail. A taste of the orchestral music can be had on CD
from Marco Polo although the performances by the SABCSO conducted by
Peter Marchbank do not have the zing that these pieces need in order
fully to grip and entertain.
Decently economical notes by the pianist spruced up
by Ralph Lane.
All in all this is an ideal way to acquire a foothold
in Scott's piano music ... and at Australian Eloquence's bargain price.
If you have any difficulty tracking down a copy then, in the UK, try
Seaford and over the internet give www.buywell.com a spin. Do not be
surprised however if Scott is revealed as a very different composer
when the major concert and dramatic works are issued on disc. You might
have to wait a while though!
See also review
by Jonathan Woolf