Cyril Scott

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Cyril Meir Scott (27 September 1879 – 31 December 1970) was an English composer, writer, and poet.

Biography[edit]

Scott was born in Oxton, Cheshire to a shipper and scholar of Greek and Hebrew, and Mary Scott (née Griffiths), an amateur pianist. He showed a talent for music from an early age and was sent to the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany to study piano in 1892 at age 12. He studied with Iwan Knorr and belonged to the Frankfurt Group, a circle of composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in the late 1890s. His first symphony was performed (through the good offices of his friend Stefan George, the great German poet) when he was only twenty years old.

In 1902 he met the pianist Evelyn Suart, with whom he had a long artistic association. She championed his music, premiering many of his works, and introducing him to his publisher, Elkin, with whom he remained for the rest of his life. Evelyn Suart was also a Christian Scientist, and it was through her that Scott became interested in metaphysics.[1][2] Scott dedicated his Scherzo, Op. 25 to Evelyn Suart. (Her daughter Diana Gould was a noted ballerina and the second wife of Yehudi Menuhin.)[2][3]

Those who heard Scott play the piano commented on the extraordinary vitality of his playing, above all his always well judged rubato, and subtleties of tone and pedalling. These can be appreciated from the reissue on a Dutton CD (Collected Piano Music, vol. 1) of his performance (in the 1930s) of eight of his own pieces on piano rolls.

Scott married Rose Laure Allatini in May 1921. They had two children: Vivien Mary Scott (born 1923) and Desmond Cyril Scott (born 1926). He separated from Rose following World War II. In 1943, he met Marjorie Hartston, a clairvoyante, who remained his companion until his death, and persuaded him to go on composing, despite the indifference of the musical world to his work. His neglect after 1930 was due to a very narrow view in the English musical establishment of what sort of music a modern composer ought to be writing. Undeterred, he continued to compose up until the last three weeks of his life, dying at the age of 91. By the time of his death he was remembered for only a few popular pieces (such as Lotus Land) that he had composed over sixty years before. His many books and pamphlets on occultism and alternative medicine always, however, found readers.

The first decade of the new millennium saw, however, a revival of interest in his music, stimulated by a flood of recordings, discussed below.

Music[edit]

Scott was essentially a late romantic composer, whose style was at the same time strongly influenced by impressionism. His harmony was notably exotic. If in his early works it was perhaps over-sweet (Alban Berg dismissed his music as 'mushy'), it became steadily more varied and more refined in his later years. Indeed it is his late works (written between 1950 and his death) that are the most individual, with their ever-shifting harmonic colours and wayward inflections of phrase and mood, capturing perfectly the way the mind shifts, backwards and forwards, between reminiscence, regrets, and self-assertion.

Scott wrote around four hundred works (though the number is deceptive, since more than half of these were short songs or piano pieces). These include two mature symphonies, four operas, two piano concertos, concertos for violin, cello, oboe and harpsichord, and three double concertos (of which the scores are now lost), several overtures, four oratorios (Nativity Hymn (1913), Mystic Ode (1932), Ode to Great Men (1936), and Hymn of Unity (1947), as well as a mass of chamber music (four mature quartets, five violin sonatas, three piano trios, and many others). Between 1903 and 1920 Scott wrote copiously for the piano. Most of these pieces were harmonically adventurous for their time and easy to play; they circulated widely in many countries of the world, in contrast to his more ambitious works, none of which received more than a handful of performances.

Scott was called the "Father of modern British music" by Eugene Goossens, and was also admired by Debussy, Ravel, his close friend Percy Grainger, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. His experiments in free rhythm, generated by expanding musical motifs, above all in his truly revolutionary First Piano Sonata of 1909, appear to have exerted an influence on Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring'. He used to be known as 'the English Debussy', though this reflected little knowledge of Scott and little understanding of Debussy.

Among the orchestral music, arguably finer than any of the symphonies are the First Piano Concerto (1913-4), Disaster at Sea (a tone poem on the sinking of the Titanic, composed in 1918-26, and published in a revised version with the title Neptune in 1935), the Violin Concerto (1928), and Neapolitan Rhapsody (published 1959). The shorter piano works suffer in the main from unimaginative form and texture, though the five 'Poems' (1912) are an important exception; more worthy of revival are the piano sonatas, especially the innovatory first (1909) and the intricate, wayward third (1956). The largest body of successful work is to be found in his chamber music, the Clarinet Quintet and Trio and the five violin sonatas being especially notable.

The years 2004-10 saw an extraordinary flood of recordings, including 4 CDs of his orchestral music (with the BBC Philharmonic under Martyn Brabbins), his complete piano music played by Leslie De'Ath on Dutton, and recordings of four of his violin sonatas by Clare Howick and Sophia Rahman. His Harpsichord Concerto received its premiere recording in 2011; the soloist was Michael Laus, who also conducted the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra for Cameo Classics. Live performances have been rarer, though the two mature symphonies (now numbered 3 and 4) received premieres in Manchester, the first in 2003 and the second in 2005.

The most recent recording is on Dutton Epoch, with Peter Donohoe and Raphael Wallfisch playing the early Piano Concerto and Cello Concerto respectively in reconstructions and completions by conductor Martin Yates. Yates also conducts the Overture Pelleas and Mellisanda on this recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The Sonatina for Guitar (1927) commissioned by Segovia was thought lost and had acquired almost legendary status among guitar historians. Rediscovered in 2001, it was hailed by Angelo Gilardino, Director of the Segovia Museum as "one of the summits of the guitar’s repertoire of the 20th century". Sonatina for Guitar has been recorded by Tilman Hoppstock on the Signum label and published by Bèrben Edizioni Musicali with one of Scott’s own paintings on the cover.

Compositions (selective list)[edit]

Dramatic[edit]

Opera[edit]

  • The Alchemist (1917-18)
  • The Saint of the Mountain (1924-25)
  • The Shrine (c. 1925-26)
  • Maureen O'Mara (1945)

Ballet[edit]

  • The Incompetent Apothecary (1923)
  • Karma (1924)
  • Masque of the Red Death (1930)

Incidental music[edit]

  • Othello (1920)
  • Return to Nature (1920)
  • Smetse Smee (c. 1925-26)
  • Susannah and the Elders (1937)

Orchestral[edit]

  • Symphony No. 1 in G major (1899)
  • Pelleas and Melisanda, overture, Op. 5 (1900) [later revised as Op. 20]
  • Lyric Suite, Op. 6 (1900)
  • Heroic Suite, Op. 7 (c. 1900)
  • Christmas Overture (c. 1900)
  • Symphony No. 2 in A minor (1901-02) [withdrawn and revised as Three Symphonic Dances]
  • Princess Maleine, overture, Op. 18 (1902) [withdrawn and revised as Festival Overture]
  • Aglavaine et Sélysette, overture, Op. 21 (c. 1902)
  • Rhapsody for orchestra No. 1, Op. 32 (1904)
  • Aubade, Op. 77 (1905, revised c. 1911)
  • Three Symphonic Dances, Op. 22 (c. 1907) [revised from Symphony No. 2]
  • Egypt, ballet suite (1913)
  • Two Passacaglias on Irish Themes (1914)
  • Britain's War March (1914)
  • Suite Fantastique, for chamber orchestra (c. 1928)
  • Neptune, poem of the sea (1933, revised 1935) [originally titled Disaster at Sea]
  • Symphony No. 3, The Muses, with chorus (1937)
  • Ode descantique, for string orchestra (c. 1940)
  • Hourglass Suite, for chamber orchestra (c. 1949)
  • Symphony No. 4 (1951-52)
  • Neapolitan Rhapsody (1959)
  • Sinfonietta for organ, harp and strings (1962)

Solo instruments and orchestra[edit]

  • Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 10 (1900)
  • Cello Concerto, Op. 19 (1902)
  • Piano Concerto No. 1 (1913-14)
  • Violin Concerto (c. 1925)
  • Philomel, for cello and orchestra (c. 1925)
  • Double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra (1926)
  • The Melodist and the Nightingale, for cello and orchestra (1929)
  • Early One Morning for piano and orchestra (1930-31, revised 1962)
  • Concertino for two pianos and orchestra (1931)
  • Double concerto for two violins and orchestra (1931)
  • Passacaglia Festevole, for two pianos and orchestra (c. 1935)
  • Cello Concerto (1937)
  • Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (1937)
  • Concerto for oboe and strings (1946)
  • Concertino for bassoon, flute and strings (1951)
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 (1958)

Choral music[edit]

  • Magnificat, for soloists, chorus orchestra and organ (1899)
  • The Ballad of Fair Helen of Kirkonnel, for baritone, chorus and orchestra, Op. 8 (1900)
  • Nativity Hymn, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1913-14)
  • La belle dame sans merci, for baritone, chorus and orchestra (1915-17)
  • Festival Overture, for chorus and orchestra (1929)
  • Mystic Ode, for chorus and chamber orchestra (1932)
  • Summerland, for chorus and orchestra (1935)
  • Ode to Great Men, for tenor, female chorus and orchestra (1936)
  • Hymn to Unity, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1947)

Chamber music[edit]

  • Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 3 (c. 1899)
  • Piano Quartet in E minor, Op. 16 (1899)
  • String Quartet, Op. 12 (c. 1900)
  • Sextet for piano and strings, Op. 26 (c. 1903)
  • String Quartet, Op. 28 (c. 1903)
  • String Quartet in F major, Op. 31 (c. 1904)
  • Violin Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 59 (1908)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1919)
  • String Quintet No. 1 (1919)
  • Piano Trio No. 1 (1920)
  • Piano Quintet No. 1 (1924)
  • Quintet for flute, harp, violin, viola and cello (1926)
  • String Trio No. 1 (1931)
  • Sonata Lirica for violin and piano (1937)
  • Viola Sonata (1939, revised 1953)
  • String Trio No. 2 (1949)
  • Piano Trio No. 2 (1950)
  • Violin Sonata No. 2, Sonata Melodica (1950)
  • Cello Sonata (1950)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1951)
  • Quintet for clarinet and strings (1951)
  • Piano Quintet No. 2 (1952)
  • String Quintet No. 2 (1953)
  • Violin Sonata No. 3 (1955)
  • Trio for clarinet, cello and piano (c. 1955)
  • Violin Sonata No. 4 (1956)
  • Piano Trio No. 3 (1957)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1961)
  • Flute Sonata (1961)
  • Trio Pastorale for flute, cello and piano (1961)
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1964)

Piano solo[edit]

  • Piano Sonata in D major, Op.17 (1901)
  • Scherzo, Op.25 (1904)
  • 2 Pierrot Pieces, Op.35 (1904)
  • 2 Piano Pieces, Op.37 (1904)
  • Solitude, Op.40-1 (1904)
  • Vesperale, Op.40-2 (1904)
  • Chimes, Op.40-3 (1904)
  • Lotus Land, Op.47-1 (1905)
  • Columbine, Op.47-2 (1905)
  • Summerland, Op.54 (1907)
  • 2 Alpine Sketches, Op.58 (1908)
  • Dance Nègre (1908)
  • Sphinx, Op.63 (1908)
  • Piano Sonata No.1, Op.66 (1909)
  • 4 Piano Pieces, Op.67 (1909-10)
  • Piano Suite, Op.71-1 (1910)
  • Water-Wagtail (1910)
  • Berceuse in E-flat (1911)
  • Pierrette (1912)
  • Rainbow Trout (1916)
  • Piano Sonata No.2 (1935)
  • Piano Sonata No.3 (1956)

Other instrumental solo[edit]

  • The Ecstatic Shepherd, for solo flute (c. 1922)
  • Celtic Fantasy, for solo harp (1926)
  • Sonatina, for solo guitar (c. 1927) (commissioned by Andrés Segovia)
  • Idyll, for solo violin (1928)

Literature[edit]

In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Scott wrote poetry and prose. He was fascinated by the occult and health foods, and described his beliefs as a blend of science, philosophy, and religion. In a whole series of books and pamphlets, he urged the sick, even those with cancer, to trust to diet and alternative medicine and avoid trained medics and surgery. There is still interest in his ideas in certain circles, both in England and elsewhere.

Prose[edit]

  • 1920 The Initiate: Some Impressions of a Great Soul (Anon.)
  • 1920 The Adept of Galilee - A Story and an Argument (Anon.)
  • 1924 Autobiography: My Years of Indiscretion
  • 1927 The Initiate in the New World (Anon.)
  • 1928 The Art of Making a Perfect Husband
  • 1930 Childishness: A Study in Occult Conduct
  • 1932 The Initiate in the Dark Cycle (Anon.)
  • 1933 Vision of the Nazarene (Anon.)
  • 1933 Music: Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages
  • 1935 Outline of Modern Occultism
  • 1936 The Greater Awareness
  • 1938 Doctors, Disease and Health
  • 1939 Man is my Theme
  • 1939 the Ghost of a Smile
  • 1939 Victory over Cancer
  • 1940 Health, Diet and Commonsense
  • 1942 The Christian Paradox
  • 1946 Crude Black Molasses
  • 1946 Medicine, Rational and Irrational
  • 1948 Cider Vinegar
  • 1952 Die Tragoedie Stefan George
  • 1953 Man the Unruly Child
  • 1953 Simpler and Safer Remedies for Grievous Ills
  • 1955 Sleeplessness: Its Prevention and Cure by Harmless Methods
  • 1956 Constipation and Commonsense
  • 1969 Autobiography: Bone of Contention

Poetry[edit]

  • 190? The Shadows of Silence and the Songs of Yesterday
  • 1907 The Grave of Eros and the Book of Mournful Melodies
  • 1909 Translation: The Flowers of Evil (Charles Baudelaire)
  • 1910 Translation: Poems of Stefan George (Selections from his Works)
  • 1910 The Voice of the Ancient
  • 1912 The Vales of Unity
  • 1915 The Celestial Aftermath: A Springtime of the Heart and Faraway Songs
  • 1943 The Poems of playboy"

Bibliography[edit]

  • Sampsel, Laurie J.: Cyril Scott: A Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood, 2000.
  • Collins, Sarah. The Aesthetic Life of Cyril Scott. Boydell, 2013.

References[edit]

External links[edit]