than a year ago Chandos released their first volume (CHAN 10211)
of Cyril Scott's orchestral music (see reviews by Stephen
Lloyd and Colin
Clarke). In addition the BBC have recently broadcast the
Violin Concerto and Dutton have now reached the third double
volume in their complete traversal of the Scott solo piano music.
we have the second commercial recording of Scott's art nouveau
Piano Concerto No. 1. It is a lapidary piece with a tendency
to decorative rhapsody, chiming mystery and chamber textures.
It’s the antithesis of the adversarial-dramatic concerto. It
falls between the communing mysteries of Bax's Symphonic
Variations and Medtner's Second Piano Concerto. It's not
a big guns, combative heroic work in the mould of Brahms 2 or
Stanford 2. The swooning meditations deepen in the second movement
with its celesta and Faune-like tremor. There is ghost of a
bluff Grainger-like folk song at the start of the finale but
it's evanescent and the Handelian heartiness is moderated away
by that oriental element. It's given a most lovingly attentive
performance which at least equals the only other commercial
recording on a long gone Lyrita LP (SRCS81) in which the soloist
was John Ogdon with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted
by Bernard Herrmann.
Fourth Symphony at last! I wondered if I would ever hear this
piece. It was completed in 1952 when Scott's music was long
sunk in a slough of neglect and opprobrium. The music variously
passes back and forward through atmospheric writing typical
of Debussy's La Mer, Ravel's Daphnis and Bax's
Spring Fire. It also includes some wonderfully sun-warmed
and leaf-dappled music typical of middle period Frank Bridge and of Suk's Ripening. Listen to the closing
bars of the first movement Grazioso for the tremble of
the leaves, the musical shuttle of birdsong and the fey blandishments
of Bax's maenads in Spring Fire. There is a feeling of
instinctive development of material … almost of improvisation.
Some of this music is undeniably sombre or at least cloud-hung
- portending some threat like the lichen strands in Bridge's
There is a Willow and Phantasm. The finale has
the pregnant Ravelian overtones of Vaughan Williams’ A London
Symphony in its suggestions of timelessness and of the flow
of a majestic river, shifting and shiftless, focused fleetingly
then unfocused. Mysticism plays like shafts of sunlight in a
forest amid music that is even-contoured, fluttering and finally
triumphant. A fascinating addition to the varied landscape of
British music in the last century.
One Morning is a single
movement piece which was recorded by Ogdon and Herrmann in their
second Scott LP (SRCS82) which included both this work and the
Second Piano Concerto. This is another ethereal piece sometimes
recalling the John Ireland of The Forgotten Rite and
Legend. It avoids anything as mundane as a direct allusion
to the full melody of the folk-song on which it is based until
the piano statement at 4:40. There are however floating strands and fragments of
the melody. It is all wonderfully done – a movingly beautiful
performance and recording in a chiming and gently ringing heat
haze. This version packs a more emotional effect than the Lyrita.
a world in which the orchestral scores of Zemlinsky and Schrecker
are properly enjoying multiple recordings it is well past time
that this music basked in the sunlight. How tragic that Scott
who died more than 35 years ago and whose 130th anniversary
falls in 2009 should never have heard this work performed.
need more Scott and I hope that future Chandos discs will include
the first two symphonies (1899 and 1903) as well as the other
concertos and the many orchestral genre pieces. Also much to
be hoped for is a series of the ambitious choral-orchestral
works such as Hymn to Unity, La Belle Dame Sans Merci,
The Nativity Hymn, and the orchestral Poe ballet The
Masque of the Red Death.
notes are provided by Lewis Foreman whose pivotal role in the
British Musical Renaissance since the mid-1960s has made a decisive
and positive difference to so many rebirths and rediscoveries
that have and will change the landscape of concert-goers and
music-lovers across the world.
addition to the shelves of any collector of twentieth century
see also Article
on Cyril Scott