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Scott sys TOCC0646
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Derek B. Scott (b.1950)
Symphony No.1 in A flat major, Op.23 (1995 orch. 2021)
Symphony No.2 in G minor, Op.26 (1996-97 orch. 2021)
The Silver Sword, tone poem, Op.39 (2021)
Liepāja Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann
rec. 2022, Great Amber Concert Hall, Liepāja, Latvia

This is my second encounter with Birmingham-born Derek B. Scott (see review) whose music Toccata is supporting with its usual generosity. Some brief biographical background is provided in that review of the first volume of his orchestral music. With the second volume we enter the symphonic world.

Both symphonies, in four conventional movements, were originally scored for brass band and were orchestrated in the summer of 2021. The First dates from 1995 and opens with a jaunty bassoon melody that soon gives way to a pop sensibility that highlights the amiable generosity of the writing, with its swirling lyrical melodies, and its employment of salient colour. There’s bagpipe-infusing Scotch Snap in the second movement as well as stirring brass lines that reinforce the work’s clear origins. A zesty scherzo is followed by a toe-tapping finale with a rocky vibe, sounding rather like an orchestration of a rock song-without-words. This isn’t a symphony for the po of face but for the glad of heart it will do just fine.

The Second Symphony followed hard on the heels of the First and was completed in 1997. Scott freely admits that he prefers it to the First, though it’s more loosely organised. It’s certainly wittily argued with its crunchy moments and witty badinage in the second subject of the first movement – Haydnesque, notes Scott. The music is songful and alive, shorn of all academic pretensions but buttressed by sure musical means. The Adagio is especially sympathetic, its lines expanding and overlapping propelled by the percussion. There’s something robustly rustic in the Scherzo, its play of high winds and low brass generating plenty of charm. The finale offers a call-and-response on Let My People Go, which is reprised more dramatically – and ultimately grandiloquently - and in different instrumental conjunctions; one sounds like a brass consort and is especially effective.

The most recent work is The Silver Sword, an 11-minute tone poem drawn from incidental music to the Ian Serraillier novel of 1956 that considered the search of three Polish children for their parents after the Second World War. It concerns struggle and hope, and Scott’s themes reflect but don’t necessarily depict these elements. There’s a March theme for the Nazis and a slow Andante that broadens into an Adagio. It’s effectively done and shows his symphonic versatility.

The ever-excellent Liepāja Symphony Orchestra is directed by Paul Mann, who has demonstrated a consistent curiosity for, and mastery of, contemporary British symphonic writing. Scott’s symphonies are ultra-approachable examples of the genre; welcoming, playful, sonorous and attractive.

Jonathan Woolf

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