CYRIL SCOTT: Piano Works to 1910; Piano Works Published After 1910 – Leslie De’ath, p. – Dutton Epoch

by | Sep 20, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

CYRIL SCOTT: Piano Works to 1910; Piano Works Published After 1910 – Leslie De’ath, p. – Dutton Epoch CDLX 7183 (2 CDs for price of 1), 77:54, 75:22 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Canadian musician Leslie De’ath (talk about important punctuation…) has a varied career as pianist, chamber music player, accompanist, vocal coach, conduct and author. He is associate editor of the Journal of Singing, and has a particular interest in more obscure piano literature – especially the piano music of Scott and Florent Schmitt. This is his fourth volume devoted to the complete piano music of Scott, with two of the previous ones having been double-CD albums.

Scott wrote in his second autobiography that his publisher insisted he write a certain number of short piano pieces each year, and he himself felt he wrote too many, detracting from his more important works.  However, these for the most part are not the sort of corny, dated little miniature salon pieces that were popular early in the 20th century. Most of them are highly original and some, while still tonal, play around with musical tricks of harmony that are quite advanced for the period. Scott was an inveterate improviser and some of the pieces sound much like improvisations. Scott was early on inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and the writings of Rudyard Kipling. A five-movement suite in this set is titled Impressions from the Jungle Book. Later Scott went thru an Impressionist period, even visiting Debussy in France. Many of his pieces partake of the exoticism of the Far East, of which his most famous example is Lotus Land (not in this set). There is a four movement suite titled Summerland – occultists use the term for a place where the soul resides between incarnations.  There are a number of pieces inspired by the cultures of various countries: an Irish Reel, Old China, a Spanish Dance, etc.  A couple of the tracks are way beyond the usual character pieces, demanding great technical skills: Scherzo and Rondeau de concert.

A number of these pieces receive their premiere recording ever with these CDs, and others were only recorded before on piano rolls or 78 rpms. It is truly a worthwhile collection for anyone into off-the-beaten-track piano music, with the music at half price on a per-minute basis. There are 54 tracks in all – 27 on each CD. It made me want to hear the first three volumes of the series.

 – John Sunier


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