Music Web Reviews
I recently reviewed Dennis Hennig’s ABC Classics Eloquence disc of Scott’s music (465 737-2). It was recorded in 1991, two years before Christopher Howell’s selection and only the Op 35 Pierrot Pieces overlap – otherwise the discs are complementary. Howell’s recital takes on a broadly chronological approach to works written between 1903-29 and in his notes touches lightly upon the vexed question of the influences on Scott’s music. He makes a case for the distinctiveness, the apartness of Scott’s aesthetic whilst, of course, not shirking the impressionistic milieu in which the composer was often to position himself, and those composers – Delius, Debussy, Grainger - who clearly did influence him. That many of the pieces here can be considered "light" does not preclude layers of complexity or harmonic suggestiveness.
Howell’s decision to programme the recital in essentially compositional order also affords one the opportunity to trace the trajectory of Scott’s ambitions over a near thirty-year span. He brings out the rather frivolous salon style of the Valse from the first of the 1903 Six Pieces as well as the immediately succeeding nobility of tread of the Adagio serioso. Howell is sensitive to dynamics, especially so in the case of the Folk-song where his rubato is expertly judged.
The two Pierrot pieces emerge here as rather less trivial and pat than they usually appear; the second in particular, whilst still undeniably decorative and shallow is nevertheless more robustly enjoyable than I’d ever remembered it. Sea-Marge – Meditation was dedicated to Sir Edgar and Lady Speyer – he was a cousin of Edward Speyer, Elgar’s great friend – maybe to commemorate a foreign trip. This is, according to Ian Parrott’s book on the composer, an abbreviated choral prelude with some evocative chromaticism. The Impressions from the Jungle Book was new to me and a real find. Hypnotic or slowly evolving from the texture of the music there is a tactility, an evolving drama in these little pieces that seems to move beyond the merely descriptive, indeed beyond the original source itself.
The Russian Air from the 1916 A Little Russian Suite is a wistful and noble tune with a hint of the baroque. I especially liked Howell’s stabbing attacks in the Dance. In Moods a sense of becalmed post-War stasis is palpable as is a corresponding vitality in the vigorous third movement called Energy. Notes are by Christopher Howell himself and the recording quality is up to Tremula’s standards. As a survey of Scott’s compositional directions in the first third of the twentieth century this disc carries with it sensitivity and conviction.