Martyn Brabbins / Paul Watkins / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Cyril Scott: Symphony No. 1; Cello Concerto

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Cyril Scott is a find for dedicated fans of English fin de siècle music. Symphonies, concertos, chamber music, piano music; he wrote it all, and in an immediately ingratiating and instantly memorable style. Admired in its time both in England and on the Continent, Scott's music is more brilliantly colorful and more imaginatively varied than the music of his contemporaries Parry and Stanford, and far better formed and crafted than his contemporaries Bantock and Brian. With this 2008 Chandos disc, Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Philharmonic have added another brick to the wall of Scott's posthumous revival. Previously, they had issued discs of his Third and Fourth symphonies and his Violin Concerto; here, they release a coupling of his First Symphony and Cello Concerto, both of them world-premiere recordings. The symphony from 1899 is a work from the composer's twentieth year, and while it has some of the marks of youth -- a touch of bombast and a tad too much sentimentality -- it also has strong themes, powerful orchestrations, and a firm sense of direction. The Cello Concerto from 1937 is a work of the composer's 59th year, a time when his reputation, though not yet at rock bottom, had sunk nearly as low as Bantock and Brian's. In this performance with young English cellist Paul Watkins, Scott's Cello Concerto has hints of Impressionism in its textures and shades of modernism in its colors, but what comes through most strongly is the composer's penchant for romantic themes -- a quality, one imagines, that an English audience anxiously awaiting another war might not have taken to its breast. Still, with Watkins' superb technique and obvious dedication and Brabbins and the BBC musicians' masterful accompaniment, the concerto makes a powerful impression that demands re-hearing. Chandos' sound puts the players right in the room with you, which could make for crowded listening.

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