“Dawn and Twilight: The First and Last Violin Sonatas of Cyril Scott” = CYRIL SCOTT: Violin Sonata No. 1 (original version); Violin Sonata No. 4 – Andrew Kirkman, p./ Clipper Erickson, v – Affetto AF1504 56:20 (11/13/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Music by a little-known British composer worthy of an extended listen.
Cyril Scott is not a name that jumps out at most people when they think of composers, but he was a creative smaller voice until he died in 1970. He was very interested in alternative medicine, ethics, religion and the occult. He wrote poetry, and published more than 40 books.
For the first quarter of the last century he was in the forefront of modern British composers, hailed by Eugene Goossens as ‘the father of modern British music’ and admired by men as diverse as Elgar, Debussy, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. By the time he died in 1970, however, he was remembered by the general public for little more than Lotus Land (1905) and small piano pieces such as Water Wagtail (1910).
He had his ups and downs, with one critic and fellow composer referring to his tone poem Disaster at Sea – “It would be easy enough to pillory this work did one not wish to forget about it immediately.” But Scott was also widely praised, especially in his earlier years.
On this disc, we get Scott’s First Violin Sonata, written in 1910, and his last, The Fourth Violin Sonata, written in 1956. Although I haven’t heard Scott’s music before, I certainly hear the composer’s voice in these two widely separated in time pieces. Still, they are different in overall mood. In the Fourth Sonata, I sense a melancholy that time had passed Scott by. Both are beautiful works, and Scott is having a small renaissance of interest from those who like 20th century chamber music.
The sonatas are performed by pianist Clipper Erickson and violinist Andrew Kirkman. The musicianship is of high quality, and both performers render Scott’s music with emotion and precision. The recording is a good one, with natural acoustics and not-too-close microphone positions. It’s a subjective comment, but I would have liked to hear a bit more separation between the soloists in the stereo image. They seem a bit bunched up in the phantom center channel.
Cyril Scott had a prodigious output of music, and these two samples from the beginning and end of his career are most welcome. It’s a very listenable disc, and it will surely encourage me to listen to more of Scott’s work, in particularly his symphonies, which are also available on disc.
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