ROUSSEL: The Spider’s Banquet; Padmavati Suites 1 & 2 – Royal Scottish Nat. Orch./ Stephane Deneve – Naxos 8.572243, 54:53 ****:
CYRIL SCOTT: Aubade; Neapolitan Rhapsody; Three Dances Op. 22; Suite Fantastique; Two Passacaglias on Irish Themes – Nat. Sym. Orch. of the South African Broadcast Centre/ Peter Marchbank – Marco Polo 8.223485, 72:17 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
While Roussel’s Spider’s Feast is probably one of his most-played works, the short suites – with their emphasis on Hindu-based music and story – are likely to be unfamiliar to most listeners. From the composer’s early impressionist period, The Spider’s Banquet is a ballet-pantomime which depicts insect life and death in the garden. The spider’s dance is great fun, and the short music for the entrance of two praying Mantises is rowdy and warlike. A visit to the ruined Indian city of Chittor inspired Roussel to create his opera-ballet Padmavarti. It uses oriental scales and timbres extensively, and evokes the city’s legendary siege by the Mongols. Sonics are excellent for CD.
Cyril Scott, who live to age 91 (1970), was a fascinating British composer whose unsual music was mostly forgotten except for his very popular Lotus Land piano solo (not on this CD). He wrote over 400 works, mostly in a late romantic style, but influenced by impressionism and full of exotic harmonies. He experimented with free rhythm and expanding musical motifs, was admired by Debussy and Ravel, and was thought of as their British equivalent. His modernisms were as acceptable as those of Delius, but much more astringent and harmonically experimental. He was an excellent pianist and had a long artistic association with a female pianist who was also a Christian Scientist. Thru her Scott became interested in metaphysics and later lived with a female clairvoyante.
The true start of his career as an orchestral composer is probably the Two Passacaglias which conclude this CD, written in 1912, although the Aubade which opens the disc, dates from 1911. The Passacaglias transform the Irish thematic material using Baroque dance variation form. The Neapolitan Rhapsody comes from much later: 1960, and makes no attempt to present the usual conventional musical picture of Naples. The much earlier Three Dances for Orchestra are more overtly romantic, especially the second, and third uses a gigue rhythm. These recordings were made in Johannesburg in 1993; not sure why we received them at this time but they are well worth hearing.
Mid-century performances, Eduard Erdmann, piano