Martyn Brabbins / Huddersfield Choral Society / Howard Shelley / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Cyril Scott: Symphony No. 3 "The Muses"; Piano Concerto No. 2; Neptune

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Despite what the French, Germans, and Italians may believe, England has produced great composers: Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, Purcell, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Britten are all indisputably great composers. But England, like the other great nations of Europe, has also had its share of deeply mediocre composers. The generation of English composers who came of age in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods produced a bumper crop of mediocrities. Granville Bantock, Charles Villiers Stanford, Charles "Hubert" Parry, and William "Havergal" Brian, produced between them a cornucopia of pretentious balderdash, sentimental claptrap, and late-Romantic orchestral flapdoodle.

Except for a single Lyrita LP from the '70s that is still prized by collectors for its fabulous sound, the world has been spared Cyril Scott (1879-1970). This 2003 Chandos recording by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Philharmonic with pianist Howard Shelley wrongs this right by unleashing this awful disc on the world. To their credit, if that's the right word for it, everyone concerned gives their best. Brabbins' conducting is powerful and direct. The BBC's playing is colorful and cogent. Howard Shelley's virtuosity is present in every note. But Scott's music remains resolutely terrible. "The Muses" Symphony starts like bloated Bantock, degenerates into a wordless choir, and ends with pompous organ chords in massive C major. The Piano Concerto starts like third-rate Scriabin and, if it's possible, gets worse from there. "Neptune" starts like an engulfed Aplinesinfonie and becomes unlistenable within two minutes. For the listener who knows and loves the music of Bantock, Stanford, Parry, and Brian, Scott's music will be welcome. For everyone else it will be more balderdash, claptrap, and flapdoodle. Chandos' sound is magnificent.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Symphony No. 3 with chorus ("The Muses")
1 14:33 Amazon
2 05:40 Amazon
3 06:43 Amazon
4 07:55 Amazon
Piano Concerto No. 2
5 09:46 Amazon
6 04:48 Amazon
7 05:43 Amazon
Neptune, poem of the sea for large orchestra
8 05:34 Amazon
9 01:40 Amazon
10 03:39 Amazon
11 09:28 Amazon
12 04:02 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick