A prolific composer, Scott wrote some four hundred works including:
four Symphonies, three Operas, two Piano Concertos, four Oratorios, Concertos for Violin, Cello, Oboe and Harpsichord, several Overtures, Tone Poems, many Chamber works and innumerable songs.
Cyril Scott was "a pioneer of British piano music, producing more piano works in the period 1903-1914 than any other British composer and any other international one, with the exception of Scriabin... (He) was a key figure before World War I in helping Britain to break away from musical conservatism and the prevailing Germanic influences.” (Lisa Hardy, The British Piano Sonata 1870-1945)
There is a story that when Bernard Shaw commented to Elgar on the (then) daring harmonies of his Second Symphony Elgar replied "You mustn’t forget, it was Cyril Scott started all that!"
Described by Eugene Goossens as "the father of modern British music", he was admired by composers as diverse as Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky and his lifelong friend Percy Grainger.
Even Sorabji, one of the most extraordinary musical figures of the time and one of Scott’s severest critics had high praise for the Piano Concerto No.1 (1914) which he lauded several times in print and in a letter to Scott many year later complained of "the neglect of that best of modern British piano concertos, your own enchanting work".
By the start of World War II Scott’s popularity had declined. There were fewer performances and virtually no recordings but he was undeterred and produced two Symphonies, an Opera, an Oratorio, Concertos, Quintets, Quartets, Trios and Sonatas, working until the final three weeks of his life when he finished the revision of his last composition barely able to hold the pen at the age of 91.
During that time he also revised the wonderfully evocative Early One Morning for piano and orchestra (1931, rev.ed 1962).
In 2004, CHANDOS issued a CD featuring: the Third Symphony: The Muses (1939); the Tone Poem: Neptune (1935);
the 2nd Piano Concerto (1958) with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins and soloist Howard Shelley.
This CD received rave notices. Peter Dickinson in the Gramophone described it as:
"A remarkable discovery in twentieth century British music!"
Sales in 2004 exceeded all expectation. This was the first of three CDs to be sponsored by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust.
In 2006 CHANDOS, again with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins and Howard Shelley, issued the Fourth Symphony (1951/52); the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1913/14); and the Tone Poem: Early One Morning (1930 revised 1962).
This CD, too, received a very positive response.
In 2007, again with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins, CHANDOS issued the Violin Concerto (1928), Olivier Charlier soloist; the Three Symphonic Dances (1907) Aubade (1907) and Festival Overture (1902, revised 1929)
From the International Record Review:
"CHANDOS places us further in its debt with the first recording - apparently the first performance - of a magnificent Cello concerto...It inhabits a world of inherent lyricism and beauty, superbly imagined and carried out. The Symphony is an absolute charmer, unlike anything else in British music at the time in my experience and a total demonstration of Scott's superlative gifts. The sound quality is outstanding and this most worthwhile CD is strongly recommended".
From The Guardian:
"There's a real discovery here, perhaps the best justification so far for Chandos's decision to record all of Cyril Scott's orchestral works... this concerto is a remarkable piece, and quite unlike anything else being composed in Britain in the 1930s. Perhaps it was that strangeness that kept Scott from getting the work performed but it shows the breadth of his musical horizons - not only encompassing a misty, mysterious, "impressionistic" atmosphere indebted to Debussy and Scriabin in the long ruminative first movement, but also introducing a more acerbic neoclassicial edge toward the end of the tiny central intermezzo which leads directly into the more conventional finale. Watkins is a marvellously convincing soloist. And Martyn Brabbins makes a good case for the early and understandably less individual, First Symphony.
From The Times
"Chandos brings more lost British music back to life with this instantly enjoyable, well-recorded disc. Watkins's keening tone is a delight, and the BBC Philharmonic under Martyn Brabbins, bask in Scott'siridescent harmonies. Prepare for long singing lines, oriental tinges, and a wistful, mystical haze. I loved it."
The Sonatina for Guitar (1927), commissioned by Segovia, was thought lost and had acquired almost legendary status among guitar historians.
Rediscovered in 2001, Cyril Scott's Sonatina for Guitar was hailed by Angelo Gilardino, Director of The Segovia Museum as
"one of the summits of the guitar’s repertoire of the 20th century".
Sonatina for Guitar was published by Bèrben Edizioni Musicali — featuring one of Scott’s own watercolour paintings on the cover.
In 2002 Sonatina for Guitar was recorded by Tilman Hoppstock on the SIGNUM label.
This marked the world premiere recording of Cyril Scott's Sonatina for Guitar.
DUTTON LABORATORIES began their exploration of Cyril Scott's music in 2002. With the London Piano Quartet in that year DUTTON issued the Quartet op.16 in E minor (1899) and the Quintet for Piano, 2 Violins, Viola and Violoncello (1920). Nona Liddell - violin, Elizabeth Turnbull - viola, David Kennedy - violoncello, Philip Fowke pianoforte and Marilyn Taylor - violin.
In 2003, with the Archaeus Quartet, DUTTON produced three of the four String Quartets: No. 1 (1919), No. 2 (1957) and No. 4 (1960). Ann Hooley and Bridget Davy - violins, Elizabeth Turnbull - viola, Martin Thomas - violoncello.
Writing in the Gramophone, Ivan March headlined his review of the string quartets:
"A fine quartet capture the vitality and melancholy of this composer's soundworld".
" Cyril Scott", he wrote, "is best known for his piano piece Lotus Land, and it might be thought that the first and second of his string quartets, with their translucent textures and nostalgic languor share something of the same atmosphere. Yet the uneasy chromaticism and ever-changing time-signatures of these chamber works create a more anxious soundworld and the melancholy First Quartet (1919) is closer to the milieu of Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht . The Second Quartet dates from three decades later, yet its unsettled mood follows recognisably from its predecessor. The Fourth Quartet(1965) is much less approachable, austere in its chromaticism, although building on the eerie, wayward lyricism of the earlier works.
This is fascinating music and very persuasively played, too: the Archaeus Quartet respond to its harmonic freedom, catching its vitality and delicate evocation."
In 2005, DUTTON Labs with pianist Leslie De'Ath issued their first CD of the solo piano music and have now almost completed recording the entire solo piano catalogue - a major undertaking running to eight or nine CDs!
This two volume CD of the Suites and Miniatures also features 8 tracks of Scott himself playing some of his most popular pieces, including Lotus Land, Water Wagtail, Danse Negre and Rainbow Trout.
The second CD, also issued in 2005, recorded all the Piano Sonatas spanning more than fifty years beginning with the early Sonata in D, op.17 (1901) and ending with theSonata No 3 (1956).
In the third CD, a double volume, Anya Alexeyev joined Leslie De'Ath to record all the two-piano works including the Theme & Variations of 1933 and the Three Symphonic Dances arranged by Percy Grainger (1920). Concert pieces, Ballet Suites, including Karma Suite (1924) and some hitherto unpublished works complete the volume.
The 4th CD, also a double volume, came out in 2007 and is divided into two parts, works composed before 1910 and those composed after, ending with the Victorian Waltz(1963), of which Leslie De'Ath wrote in his liner notes:
"(It) was Scott's last completed piano composition. Its delicate and subtle nostalgia for a bygone era brings to mind Strauss's Vier lezte Lieder. Based on a fragment written by a friend of his youth, T. Holland-Smith, it is a touching farewell to the instrument that played such a fundamental role in shaping the composer's creative life."