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Cyril Scott (Composer, Arranger)

Born: Sepember 27, 1879 - Oxton, Cheshire, England
Died: December 31, 1970 - Eastbourne, England

The remarkable English composer; Cyril (Meir) Scott, was a scion of a cultural family; his father was a classical scholar, his mother a fine amateur musician. Having displayed a natural penchant for music as a child, he was sent to Frankfurt am Main at age 12 to study with Vzielli and Engelbert Humperdinck, remaining there for a year and a half before returning to England. He once again went to Frankfurt am Main in 1895 to study piano and theory with Iwan Knorr.

In 1898 Cyril Scott went to Liverpool as a teacher. In 1900 Hans Richter conducted Scott's Heroic Suite, in Liverpool and Manchester; also in 1900, his 1st Symphony was played in Darmstadt; his overture Pelléas and Mélisande was performed in Frankfurt am Main. His 2nd Symphony (1902) was given at a Promenade Concert in London on August 25, 1903. (It was later converted into 3 Symphonic Dances.) His setting of Keats's La Belle Dame sans merci for Baritone, Chorus, and Orchestra was premiered in London in 1916. His opera The Alchemist (1917), for which he wrote his own libreno, was premiered in Essen on May 28, 1925. In 1920 Scon traveled to the USA and played his 1st Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski (November 5, 1920). However, Scott acquired fame mainly as a composer of some exotically flavoured piano pieces, of which Lotus Land became a perennial favourite. Fritz Kreisler arranged it for violin and piano, and played it repeatedly at his concerts. Other popular piano pieces were Dance negre, Chinese Serenade, Russian Dance, Sphinx, Autumn Idyll, Berceuse, Little Russian Suite, Indian Suite, Spanish Dance, and most particularly the ingratiating suite Impressions of the Jungle Book, after Kipling. He also wrote over 100 songs.

In all these pieces, Cyril Scott showed himself a master of musical miniature. He wrote in a distinctly modern idiom, very much in the style of French Impressionism; employed sonorous parallel progressions of unresolved dissonant chords; made frequent use of the whole-tone scale. His writing for piano is ingratiating in its idiomatic mastery; his harmonious modalities exude an aura of perfumed euphony.

Among his other works are: 2 more operas, The Saint of the Mountain (1925) and Maureen O'Mara (1946); 3 ballets, The Incompetent Apothecary (1923), Karma (1926), and The Masque of the Red Death (1932); Christmas Overture (London, November 13, 1906); La Princesse Maleine, syphonic poem (London, August 22, 1907); 3 violin concertos (1927, c1935, c1935); Cello Concerto (1931); Harpsichord Concerto (1937); Symphony No. 3, The Muses (1939); Oboe Concerto (1946); Sinfonietta for Strings, Organ, and Harp (1954); Neapolitan Rhapsody for Orchestra (1960); Sinfonietta for Strings (1962); numerous overtures and suites; Nativity Hymn for Chorus and Orchestra (1913); The Ballad of Fair Helen of Kirkconnel for Baritone and Orchestra (1925); Rima's Call to the Birds for Soprano and Orchestra (1933); Let Us Now Praise Famous Men for Chorus and Orchestra (935); Ode to Great Men for Tenor and Orchestra (1936); Hymn of Unity for Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orchestra (1946); more than 100 songs; Piano Quartet (1900); 4 string quartets (1920, 1958, 1960, 1968); 3 piano trios (1920, 1950, 1957); 2 piano quintets (1924, 1952); 2 string trios (1931, 1949); Cello Sonata (1950); Clarinet Quintet (1953); Flute Sonata (1961); 3 piano sonatas (1910, 1932, 1956); 160 other piano pieces.

From his early youth, Cyril Scott was attracted to occult sciences, and was a believer in the reality of the supernatural; he published books and essays on music as a divinely inspired art, and inveighed violently against jazz as the work of Satan. Among his books, all published in London, are The Philosophy of Modernism in Its Connection with Music (1917); The Initiate Trilogy (1920, 1927, 1935); My Years of Indiscretion (1924); The Influence of Music on History and Morals: A Vindication of Plato (928); Music: Its Secret Influence through the Ages (1933; augmented edition, 1958); An Outline of Modern Occultism (935); The Christian Paradox (1942); an autobiographical vol., Bone of Contention (1969); also 2 books on medical matters: Medicine, Rational and Irrational (1946) and Cancer Prevention (1968).

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2007)

Cyril Scott: Short Biography | Piano Transcriptions: Works | Recordings | Other Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Cyril Scott homepage
Cyril Scott (British Classical Music)
Cyril Scott (Wikipedia)
Cyril Scott - A man whose time has come again? (Music Web)

Grainger Museum: Cyril Scott
Cyril Scott Biography (Naxos)
Cyril Scott (Chester & Novello)
Alpheus: Cyril Scott: 'The Father of British Modern Music'


A. Hull: Cyril Scott: Composer, Poet and Philosopher (London, 1918; 3rd edition, 1921)
I. Parrott: Cyril Scott and his Piano Music (London, 1992)

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