Visions: Berceuse; Poems; Lotus Land; Water – Wagtail; Sphinx; Intermezzo; Summerland; Two Pierrot Pieces; Columbine; Three Little Waltzes; Morning Song in the Jungle; Over the Prairie
Nino Gvetadze (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72819 63:38 mins
A century ago, critic A Eaglefield Hull wrote that Cyril Scott’s output would ‘take a high place in the music of the future’. The future always lies ahead, but it’s doubtful that on their own his prettily atmospheric piano pieces can help Scott’s climb. Scott himself thought that these picturesque trifles led to his ‘undoing’ by removing attention from the serious works that lay on the shelf or never got written. Then there’s the question of quantity. A small sampling may please; but a bulk buy? Much less certain.
Born in Georgia, based in the Netherlands, Nino Gvetadze loves every note of these postcards from the Debussy, Scriabin and art nouveau era. Phrase by moulded phrase, this certainly helps to sustain interest, though it does little to overcome the feeling that Scott’s titles could often be swapped without the listener sensing something amiss. Are we listening to water wagtails, a character from the commedia dell’arte, or visiting the Sphinx? Even when keys shift and filigree decorations multiply or fade it can be hard to tell. One appealing exception is ‘Fairy Folk’, climax of the little suite Summerland: modest music with a direct, simple charm.
Presentation is a little lax. We only get half of the advertised Over the Prairie (a very strange prairie), and no one spells out that the printed purple texts allied to Poems – the strongest work here – are by Scott himself. The penny, though, soon drops. ‘Slumbrous lassitude’, ‘dreamy realms’, ‘shimmer of eternal roses’: ah yes, that is Cyril Scott.