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Once-neglected composers such as the English pianist/composer Cyril Scott (1879-1970) have a complicated posterity. CDs are now available of many Scott works, including his Piano Concerto No 1 (1913/14) and the luscious Lotus Land as well as the spry Danse nègre. The last- mentioned has been recorded by such noted pianists as Irene Scharrer, Scott’s friend Percy Grainger, John Ogdon and Eileen Joyce. Yet Scott’s pieces are rarely part of today’s recital programmes, since most modern performers shun his now-dated spirituality blended with turn-of-the-century dandyism, as explained in this welcome new study. Collins describes how the vain, languid Scott was praised by a friend for having the ‘studied grace of a Beau Brummel’. A gifted student in Frankfurt of Lazzaro Uzielli (1861-1943) and later of Clara Schumann, he was also a health crank who published such treatises as Constipation and Common Sense (1956) – surely one of the few famous pianists who ever committed to print personal advice about digestion. Scott boldly combined longevity, diligence and instinctive creativity. By the 1920s, he was improvising into a dictaphone to preserve his unconscious keyboard improvisations. To record the results, he also devised and constructed a so-called ‘composer’s piano’, as Collins describes it, with ‘a large board placed above the hammers for writing’. Today, Scott’s resolve has finally borne fruit in the form of a determined coterie of admirers who clamour for new CDs highlighting his achievements.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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