The Songs of Cyril Scott
A composer who writes songs arguably allows us into a very personal side of his or her character. An instrumental composition gives us access to a composer’s imagination and invention as far as the composer chooses to let us see, but a song shows a composer’s highly personal response to a text – we hear how the composer reacts to another facet of creativity. We are not confined to the composer’s own thoughts, and the best songs take us into a composer’s creative mind. Scott’s compositional style reflected the colour and richness of his ideas. The songs on this CD cover a period from his early 20s to when he was about 40.
A few of Scott’s songs became extraordinarily popular: they undoubtedly overshadowed the rest of his work. In many of his songs, he explored and developed his harmonic language, and set the mood and character of the text, so that the best can be explored at many levels. Some of them seem simple, but hide, as Edmund Rubbra, a composer and a student of Scott, put it, ‘a good deal of artifice’. Repeated listenings allow their richness of detail to sink in, and they become more and more rewarding. [Valerie Langfield]
In a setting of his own poem, Spring Song, he embeds the song of the cuckoo in a rather arabesque-like way, where splashes of his more advanced harmonies can be felt. That’s also true of Willows where the piano colour is more titillating than the melodic curve of the lyric. Scott can make a little go a long way. He gets a lot of mileage out of the oscillating chords of The Watchman but even better is the dreamy impressionism of Water-Lillies, to Scott’s own words, a kind of Monet in music. When it comes to folkloric elements Scotch Lullabye is interrupted by scrunchy dissonant piano chords and enlivened by strenuous outburst. For an example of his roustabout, music hall side turn to Don’t Come In Sir, Please! and for salon effusions operating at the lowest possible wattage listen to In a Fairy Boat and Lovely Kind and Kindly Loving.