CYRIL SCOTT (1879 - 1970)
Cyril Meir Scott was born in 1879 in Oxton, a suburb of Birkenhead, the son of a business-man who was also scholar of Greek and Hebrew and of a mother who was an amateur pianist. At the age of twelve, in spite of his fathers initial reluctance, he was sent to Frankfurt to study music at the Hoch Conservatory. There his general education was undertaken by a private tutor, while he had piano lessons from Lazarro Uzielle. Returning to England in 1893, he continued the process of private general education, taking piano lessons in Liverpool from Steudner-Welsing, before resuming study in Frankfurt once more in 1895, now turning his attention to composition under the tuition of Iwan Knorr, a pupil of Moscheles, Richter and Reinecke. Scotts fellow-students included Percy Grainger, Balfour Gardiner and Roger Quilter, who, with Norman ONeill, became known as the Frankfurt Group. His friendship with the German poet Stefan George, whose advances he rejected, awakened his literary interests and brought contact with the painter Melchior Lechter, a connection that sparked his interest in occultism.
In 1898 Scott returned to England, giving a piano recital in Liverpool, where he took a few pupils, and was now drawn himself, through the influence of his friend Charles Bonnier, Professor of French Literature at Liverpool University, towards the writing of poetry. The same period brought the composition of his Symphony No. 1, first performed at Darmstadt in 1900 under Willem de Haahn. The occasion allowed Scott to confirm his own lack of ability as a conductor, when he surrendered the baton to de Haahn at the first rehearsal. In Liverpool and Manchester Hans Richter, conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, directed in the same year the first performances of Scotts Heroic Suite. A second symphony, first performed under Henry wood at a London Promenade Concert in 1903, was later recast as Three Symphonic Dances.
Scott himself withdrew his first symphony and Heroic Suite and claimed to find the true beginning of his career as an orchestral composer in the Two Passacaglias, written in 1912 and first performed under Thomas Beecham in 1916. Much of his general popular reputation as a composer depended, however, on the long series of evocative piano pieces and songs, works for which there was a ready and welcoming market, fostered by his contract with the music publisher William Elkin. His Piano Concerto marked the height of his achievement in the earlier period of his life. It was introduced to the public in 1915 by Thomas Beecham, with the composer as soloist.
The years after WWI brought further success, more particularly in Germany, where Scotts serious compositions had found an audience. In 1928 his opera The Alchemist was given in Essen, despite of the hostility of some of the singers, and this led to performances in Dortmund arranged by Hannah Spohr, descendant of Louis Spohr, of his ballet The Masque of the Red Death, a work based on Edgar Allan Poe. After a period away from composing Scott returned with the opera, Maureen OMara, for which, as before, he wrote his own libretto, a second piano concerto, a concerto for oboe and other works, including a further addition to his successful body of chamber music. Scott died in Eastbourne on 31 December 1970.