The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Clare Howick (violin) Sophia Rahman (piano)
Cyril Scott was born in 1879 and would today be described as a crossover composer, always happy to work either in popular light music or in more serious and ambitious works. Sadly he found that his melodic bon-bons captured the public’s attention to such an extent that his catalogue of more serious music, including four symphonies, three operas and many concertos, was soon overlooked.
The present disc shows him in both genres, opening with the three-movement Sonata lirica, a piece he never heard performed in public. The parts eventually turned up among the papers of his New Zealand piano-duo partner, Esther Fisher, and it is here played for probably the first time. The piece is rhapsodic in nature, with the violin and piano often working independently as they weave long and highly attractive melodic lines.
His most famous piece, Lotus Land, was transcribed into many formats, and is here played in Fritz Kreisler’s highly effective arrangement. This group of salon pieces is characterised by grace and charm, though occasionally, as in the Fantasie orientale, they require a more outgoing display of virtuosity.
Clare Howick, playing a Pressenda violin of 1847, has a quick vibrato ideally suited to both sides of Scott’s output, and both performers avoid the mawkishness that can easily enter salon music of that era. Tempos allow the longer works to unfold at a natural pace, and when Scott looks for local colours, as in the American-inspired Tallahassee Suite, they are applied without exaggeration. Entertaining, highly desirable and with good sound.