ALBUM TITLE: Scott
WORKS: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 4: Suite… (In the Old Style); Trois danses tristes; Impressions from the Jungle Book; Six Pieces, Op. 4 etc
PERFORMER: Leslie De’Ath (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7183
The fourth volume (and sixth and seventh CDs) of Leslie De’Ath’s Cyril Scott Complete Piano Music contains no less than 54 separate works or movements, further eloquent testimony to the extraordinary productivity of the composer who was once touted as ‘the English Debussy’. Most of this huge body of music is unknown (the bulk of this volume is first recordings) and it’s difficult to demur from Scott’s own verdict that, at his publisher’s behest, he composed far too many miniatures and genre pieces, already by 1910 fatally saturating his own market and diminishing his critical standing by appearing as a composer of potboilers. Only a very few pieces (Lotus Land, Danse Nègre etc)
lodged in the public memory.
Yet De’Ath (on the sprightliest form yet in this series, I fancy) is quite right that there’s plenty here that deserves fresh hearing. Scott was never really an impressionist: the Debussy his music often recalls is early or middle-period, up to around the Suite Bergamasque (to which Scott’s Suite … (In the Old Style) is a kind of British counterpart). There are flower-pieces (Asphodel) and reveries, and explorations of local colour from China to Russia. The suite Impressions of the Jungle Book is an eloquent homage to Kipling.
The general standard is high; nothing outstays its welcome; everything is melodically and harmonically attractive, deftly written, full of charm. Profundity is in short supply, but was never asked for. From the delightful Frivolous Pieces of 1898 to the ironically nostalgic Victorian Waltz of 1963, a natural master of the keyboard enjoys himself. One wouldn’t listen to this repertoire in bulk, but selected gems – the Danses Tristes, the brilliant Rondeau de Concert for Moiseiwitsch, the hilarious Irish Reel, the pulsing Spanish Dance – will bear repeated hearings. Purchasers of the previous volumes needn’t hesitate.