on 5 May 2013
During his years of fame (1905-25) Cyril Scott produced masses of piano pieces and songs (and, to be fair, half a dozen chamber works), but completed only one major orchestral work - the First Piano Concerto (1913-14). In contrast, as a young man he was highly prolific. Between 1899 and 1903 he produced two symphonies and the works recorded here. He soon came to dismiss them as juvenilia, and threw them away, apart from carving `Three Symphonic Dances' out of the Second Symphony (1903). But fortunately his friend Percy Grainger kept copies, and it is these that made the present recording possible. Grainger's copy of the Cello Concerto had some odd, but fortunately brief, lacunae, while his copy of the Piano Concerto (1900) was incomplete - Martin Yates has had to complete the last movement himself. It is not clear whether Scott himself ever completed the two works.
Who was right, Scott or Grainger? The Overture to Pelleas et Melisande is rather touching, but immature: the dramatic climax (clearly depicting the death of Pelleas) is inadequately prepared for and sounds like film music, and there is too much repetition of a rather undistinguished rising scale motif. The Piano Concerto is dashingly self-assertive but lacks a sense of direction; the most effective part of the score is the part that Martin Yates seems to have composed. But the Cello Concerto (the latest of these three works) maintains a telling romantic afflatus from the beginning right through to the end, and is stunningly performed in this recording - with real passion and conviction. I have the impression that in a live performance there would be problems of balance, but a recording can disguise this. (Chandos in their recording of the mature Cello Concerto likewise gave extra prominence to the cello - which was quite uncalled for, since in that work Scott keeps the orchestral part diaphanous whenever the soloist is playing.) The Cello Concerto can join the Piano Sonata of 1901 and the second of the Three Symphonic Dances as evidence that the young Scott really had something to say.