This is the keenly awaited follow-up to volume 1 of Chandos' survey of the orchestral music of Cyril Scott (1879-1970). As with Chandos' earlier disc, Scott emerges as a composer who, like many of his British contemporaries, is influenced by his more individual personalities of the time (Scriabin, Bax, Bridge, Debussy, Ravel, Sorabji) but who has an individual voice of his own. His scoring is very delicate and inventive, the harmonies lyrical. The BBC Philharmonic's playing is outstanding throughout; this disc builds on the reputation the orchestra won through it's recordings of Bax and others and confirms it as the band of choice for the complex, demanding scores of Britain's "inter-war" composers.
The First Piano Concerto, from 1914, is a substantial 30-minute piece, deftly scored and with an exceptionally demanding piano part. Like many other British piano concertos of the period (Howells, Bowen) it often sounds improvisatory, but on repeated hearings the piece's internal logic becomes apparent. It is a beautiful work, which in Lewis Foreman's words "floats from mood to mood".
The Fourth Symphony, from thirty five years later, very much sounds like the work of an older composer. The harmonic language is more adventurous, although still largely "impressionistic". It seems that the work has not been performed until this recording, perhaps because in the early 1950s this kind of freely rhapsodic music was out of fashion. The work is not as tightly structured as, say, a Rubbra or Alwyn symphony, but the sheer beauty of the orchestration makes listening to it a satisfying experience. The work has four movements and although it has no programme the echoes of the sea and nature generally are not hard to spot.
"Early One Morning", a 14-minute mini-concerto for piano and orchestra from the early 1930s is the most easily digestable music on the disc, being a set of variations on the tune of the same name. It is very much in the same vein as other piano rhapsodies such as Bax's "Morning Song" and Moeran's "Rhapsody", but with Scott's individual, impressionistic harmonic touch. The harmonies are magical, with elements of Grainger and Sorabji and in places sounding like a Richard Rodney Bennet improvisation on George Gershwin.
In sum, this is a release that should be enjoyed by anyone with a taste for post-romantic or British inter-war music. It enhances Scott's reputation as a composer of real flair whose music deserves much more than an occasional outing on disc. It also whets the appetite to hear the other music referred to in Lewis Foreman's typically thorough booklet notes - concertos for violin, cello and oboe as well as the first two symphonies. Hopefully a volume 3 is already under consideration.