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Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
The Complete Sonatas and Other Works for Piano.
Sonata Op. 66 [22:14]; Second Sonata [14:33]; Sonata III [17:15]; Sphinx Op. 63 [4:27]; Rainbow Trout [3:53]; Rondeau de Concert [5:30]; Ballad [6:52]; Victorian Waltz [3:34]
Michael Schäfer (piano).
rec. 28-29 April 2003, Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk (Sonata op. 66, Sonata III, Rondeau de Concert, Ballad, Victorian Waltz), 8 March 2005, University of Music and Performing Arts Munich (Second Sonata, Sphinx, Rainbow Trout)
GENUIN GEN 85049 [78:19]


Recording the "The Complete Sonatas" of this or that composer is far from unusual. Sadly the claim to completeness is often based on insufficient research. Even before the acclaimed "Complete Bax Piano Sonatas" had been published half a year or so ago (Oehms), Michael Schäfer recorded a volume of Scott piano works, apparently unaware of the Leslie De’Ath venture (Dutton) in which the sonatas were issued only just before the Schäfer recordings were completed.

The first thing you notice with this Genuin disc is the omission of the early Sonata in D major Op. 17. This was never published during Scott’s lifetime and thus may have been thought to have been withdrawn by the composer.

So what exactly do we have on the Schäfer CD? We find the three full-size sonatas and five shorter pieces. Refreshingly the latter avoid the best-known Cyril Scott (Lotus-Land or Pierrot-Pierrette) but offer - initially to German listeners - compositions of considerable substance which afford a deeper insight into a composer who in Germany remained largely unknown until the present author’s contribution to the Lexikon des Klaviers (Laaber, 2006).

The famous Op. 66 sonata (1909) is performed with plenty of attention to nuance and, it seemed to me, more warmth than De’Ath. Dennis Hennig (Etcetera) has in comparison the disadvantage of a more metallic-sounding piano. Preferences between these alternative recordings depend on taste - though I must admit that I would like to know which version of the sonata was actually recorded – this is not conveyed in the Schäfer booklet notes.

The Second Sonata in one continuous movement (1932) displays, as does the first, more urgency than De’Ath’s version. And the mysterious beginning of Sonata III (1956) has an additional component of disquiet added to the vast harmonic and metrical range. This may however be more expressively displayed by De’Ath and Raphael Terroni - the latter in a BMS recording of 1981 sadly not yet reissued on CD. A comparison of the durations of the few recordings is telling:-




Sonata Op. 66




Second Sonata



Sonata III



After the substantial sonatas the five smaller pieces have been carefully chosen from Scott’s vast œuvre. The Egyptophile-impressionist Sphinx of 1907 is much more impressionist than with De’Ath. The famous 1916 Rainbow Trout in direct comparison with Scott’s own interpretation of 1928, reissued in vol. 1 of the Dutton series, is much more convincingly silvery-slippery. The 1918 neo-classicist Rondeau de Concert has much more legato than with De’Ath. A Ballad of 1920 has not yet been released by De’Ath. The late Victorian Waltz of 1963 is Scott’s last completed piano composition, an enchanting, "old-fashioned" miniature full of valedictory feelings.

Schäfer, a professor at the Munich Conservatoire, proves with this collection, and with the last piece as well as with much else on this CD, to be completely au fait with Scott’s compositional style; more, his interpretations are full of charm and grace. At times he is perhaps somewhat less sharp-edged than some, but this remains an excellent introduction to the music of Scott.

The honestly recorded sound from Bavarian Radio and acceptable booklet notes complete a strongly recommendable CD.

Jürgen Schaarwächter



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