Friday, 21 June 2013

Cyril Scott: Overture to Princess Maleine

A few days ago I mentioned in a post the new CD release from Dutton Epoch [CDLX7302] of orchestral music by Cyril Scott, including his overture to Pélleas and Melisande. Further notice was made of the same composer’s Overture: Princess Maleine. This overture has a complex history. Seemingly, it was originally composed in 1902 but was not performed until a Promenade Concert on 22 August 1907. It was dedicated to Scott’s friend from his days in Frankfurt, Clemens von Frankenstein. The work was subsequently withdrawn. Some five year later, the Overture was revised and was performed in 1912 complete with a final chorus. It was produced under the auspices of Alma Mahler at the seventh concert of the Philharmonischer Chor, April 22, in Vienna and was conducted by Herr Schrecker.
In 1929 it was again reworked and subsequently reappeared as the Festival Overture in 1934. This recension was dedicated to Percy Grainger and was first heard at the Queen’s Hall in London on May 9 1934 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. The work had won a Daily Telegraph prize for a new overture.
I am unable to confirm that either of the two earlier versions is still extant. However there is a hint that the manuscript of the 1902 version may be in the Grainger Museum in Australia. Internet chatter suggested that the Dutton CD would include this work; however it was in fact the gorgeous Pélleas Overture instead.
The Festival Overture appeared on Chandos (CHAN10407), At the present there is no recording of the original work, however a number of reviews do exist which I will post in due course.

Rob Barnett on MusicWeb International, reviewing the Chandos disc has given a good flavour of the Festival Overture’s strengths. He writes, ‘[It] reminiscent of the diaphanous textures of [Scott’s] First Piano Concerto and touches on territory mapped out by Debussy’s Faun. It’s a gorgeously lush impressionistic piece rising to a rather redundant choral conclusion.’  This is probably as close as we will get to hearing the original composition. 

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