Scott: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 4; Early One Morning

COMPOSERS: Scott
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Scott
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 4; Early One Morning
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10376
This second release in Chandos’s Cyril Scott series is entirely up to the technical and musical standards of the first. John Ogdon recorded the First Piano Concerto and Early One Morning for Lyrita ages ago, but those sterling accounts have long been unavailable, so it’s good to resume the works’ acquaintance in these beautifully recorded and equally eloquent performances by Howard Shelley. Early One Morning, a dream-like ramble of the eponymous folksong, is one of Scott’s loveliest scores; while the Concerto, with its chunkily slithering chromatic chordal writing, shimmeringly evocative slow movement and invigoratingly ‘neo-Handelian’ finale is a true virtuoso vehicle located somewhere on a line connecting Grainger and Sorabji.

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The late Fourth Symphony was never performed before Chandos made this recording of it. A little like Bax in Sibelian mood, but with a flavour all its own, it proves a concise, elusive four-movement work with plenty of the orchestral ‘sea-imagery’ observable in Scott’s orchestral works of the 1930s. Unlike the extroverted Piano Concerto, there are few big climaxes, rather a subtle, atmospheric exploration of mood with haunting moments of stillness, especially in the hypnotic slow movement: just the kind of work that benefits from repeated hearings. Martyn Brabbins directs sympathetic and characterful performances, skilfully delineating the colourful stands in Scott’s often complex orchestral web. Well worth any British music-lover’s time. Calum MacDonald