The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Paul Watkins (cello) BBC Philharmonic, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)
Many of us arrive at Cyril Scott’s unique brand of chromatically inflected textural plasticity through his exquisite piano miniature Lotus Land. However, there is a great deal more to Scott’s creative psyche than oriental exotica, as is triumphantly demonstrated by this rewarding coupling. In addition to the cello concerto (this is its world premiere performance and recording), Scott also composed a violin concerto for May Harrison, and double concertos for two violins and violin and cello (for May and Beatrice Harrison). It was Beatrice that Scott probably had in mind for his 1937 cello concerto, cast in three movements – the long ruminative opening movement occupying more than half the total playing time, and the lively finale prefaced by an intermezzo-like Pastorale.
Scott’s richly spiced, dreamily evocative idiom (a bit like Szymanowski grafted on to Vaughan Williams in ‘mystic’ mode) is hardly everyday fare, yet Paul Watkins and colleagues play with such commanding finesse and heart-rending eloquence that one quickly becomes immersed in the music’s rarefied sound world. Aided by typically wide-ranging and atmospheric Chandos engineering, Watkins’s impassioned advocacy, gloriously full-throated and articulate in the middle register and refreshingly free of undue bass resonance, captivates the attention from first to last. The coupled First Symphony affords us a fascinating glimpse at the young composer’s burgeoning melodic style and harmonic succulence.