> Cyril SCOTT Piano pieces Hennig [JW]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
Two Pieces Op 47
Lotus Land

Two Pierrot Pieces Op 35
Trois Danses tristes Op 74
Over the Prairie; Two Impressions
Piano Sonata No 1 Op 66
Dennis Hennig, piano
Recorded 1991
ABC CLASSICS ELOQUENCE 465 737-2 [79í27]

Dennis Hennigís sleeve note contains an introductory paragraph succinct in setting out the Scott dilemma Ė member of the Frankfurt Group, hailed as progressive saviour of British modernism in his early twenties, followed by the rapid decline of his reputation after the First World War. Hennigís disc first appeared on Etcetera and was issued in 1992. It is a generous and in some ways absorbingly troubling selection of works written within an eleven year period which range from salon morceaux through Pictorialism to the more obvious fires and fissures of the 1909 Sonata.

Lotus Land, still the paradigmatic Scott composition, opens the recital coupled with its less well-known opus mate, Columbine. Both are examples of salon pictorial exotica spiced with a dash of Ravel. The two Pierrot Pieces were inspired by Graingerís A Lot of Rot for cello and piano which Scott claimed had "caught something of the sad sentimental vulgarity of the music hall." Scottís own double tribute, both to Grainger and to the variety stage, is a rather more earthbound affair. The chordal progressions of Pierrot triste strike me as melodramatically pat and wistful, in the worst sense; melodically it strikes me as a cross between Nessum Dorma and the Londonderry Air. We reach deeper waters with the five Poems of 1912. The poems are all by Scott and this is attractively sensuous, harmonically versatile music with its aphoristic beauties intact. Employing chains of parallel fourths and sixths in imitation of bells tolling Scott is both Debussyian and also highly personalised in his inspiration. The bell tolling of the central piece is both authentic in sound and curiously moving, the set as a whole a marriage of technique and a sophisticated means of expression. Especially attractive as well is the central Danse Orientale from the 1910 Trois Danses tristes. It is dedicated to Maud Roosevelt, a close friend of Scottís and whilst still, perhaps, salon in impulse has an assertive-reflective life of its own in his best "eastern" style (Scott had famously never been to any of places whose music he evoked).

The Sonata adopts Graingerís free rhythm and also employs unequal bar lengths and is a cyclic and a substantial work ending in a distinctly unGraingerian fugal passage. Itís the first of his three piano sonatas (the others date from 1932 and 1956) and has a convulsively attractive, errant harmony. Itís often assertive, freely associative melodically and embeds distinctive folk material into its fabric, exploring moods and impressions with a sometimes aggressive eloquence. The slow section, a six minute adagio, is especially compelling but the whole work is a distinctive achievement and a fitting end to Henningís very well played recital tracing as it does the twin poles of Scottís creative life, from the hot house of Lotus Land to the tough formalities of the Sonata. Strongly recommended.

Jonathan Woolf


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