Scott Brothers Duo
CD REVIEWS

DUOS FOR HARMONIUM & PIANO - SCOTT BROTHERS DUO
- SBDRCD003

Duos For Harmonium & Piano


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Publication: Organists’ Review
Date: February 2010
Reviewer: Andrew Fletcher
*EDITOR’S CHOICE*

Scott Brothers Duo - Duos for Harmonium and Piano - SBDRCD003


What an experience this recording is! I wouldn't have immediately thought the marriage of harmonium and piano a likely or successful one, and this was confirmed by the frontal assault of the first track where the relentless harmonium chords severely diminished the effect of the piano. However, once Saint-Saëns got it out of his system in the opening Fantasia, a sensitive and colourful dialogue was allowed to develop. The Cavatina, Capriccio and Scherzo are particularly delightful.

Jonathan has arranged a number of items on this recording, Gounod's Ave Maria being the first we hear. I've always thought Gounod's melodic addition to Bach's Prelude in C (Bk1, No.1, of the'48') inspired, but Jonathan's attractive contrapuntal additions take it a stage further. The interplay of piano and harmonium is artfully conceived and beautifully executed, as we find in his arrangement of Mascagni's Intermezzo. The Pastorale and Priére demonstrate how comfortable Guilmant is in this medium, the Priére seemingly another offshoot of Bach's Prelude in C. Franck's Prelude, Fugue et Variation needs no introduction to OR readers, and the composer's own transcription is to the manner born.

Jonathan's arrangement of Fauré's Après un rève will melt the listener while his version of Saint-Saëns'
Danse Macabre shows that not only are we in the hands of two finely tuned and highly sensitive musicians, we are experiencing effortless virtuosity. Congratulations to the brothers on a most interesting and eye-opening musical journey. Consummate artistry!


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Publication: THE SYDNEY ORGAN JOURNAL
Date: Vol. 41, No.1. SUMMER 2009-2010 (December-February)
Reviewer: Graham Cole

Scott Brothers Duo - Duos for Harmonium and Piano - SBDRCD003

This CD is a real eye opener; I have listened to it several times and each time enjoyed it more than each previous time. Jonathan and Tom Scott are first class musicians and performers with great technical skill and musicianship. Some of the music they play is really demanding and those works that were arranged for the combination of Harmonium and Piano by Jonathan Scott are superbly arranged. Indeed, in the arrangement of the Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre I could hear wonderful things that are lost in the orchestral original.

The pairing of Harmonium and Piano is an unusual combination to our 21st century ears, but back in the late 19th century and early 20th century it was not so uncommon - particularly in France. Indeed, almost all the works performed on this CD are French. It begins with Six Duos for Harmonium & Piano Op.8 by Camille Saint-Saëns. These duos demand considerable virtuosity on the part of both players (and incidentally illustrate the famous comment by Berlioz that Saint-Saëns lacked only one thing - inexperience!) Also on the CD are two works by Guilmant and César Franck’s own arrangement of his Prelude, Fugue and Variation (which is a real delight to hear; and now I know where the arpeggios in Harold Bauer’s piano arrangement of this work come from - Franck himself.) there are Jonathan Scott’s arrangements of the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria (originally it seems written as a meditation for Violin and Piano and the words added later.), the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Fauré’s song After a Dream, and of course the Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre. All wonderful music superbly played.

Now we come to the instruments on which these works are performed. The Harmonium was made by Victor Mustel, the greatest of all harmonium makers. It was made in Paris in 1880 and it is in original condition. Instruments such as this are now very rare as most of the disappeared with the advent of the electric organ - a major disaster! This instrument has enormous expressive power and a considerable range of volume. (One cannot a manual American reed organ being able to balance a large concert grand piano, but this instrument is more than a match for the piano.) It makes the little Estey reed organs that were so common in small churches seem paltry by comparison, both in range of volume and expressive potential.

The piano is a Steinway Concert Grand - Model D. Now I must confess that I have rather a jaundiced view of Steinway Model D grand pianos. The worst piano I ever played was a Steinway, and recently I bought a CD of piano music by Dohnanyi, played on a Steinway Model D, and I don’t think I will listen to that CD again. That said, I have heard and played some Steinway Model D grands that are very fine indeed. This one on the CD is superb. I suspect that an excellent English piano technician got to it and voiced it, getting rid of that brash American jangle that is often characteristic of these pianos, and bringing out its potential richness and brilliance.

In summary, I must commend this CD to the interested listener; it is a real joy and delight and one will listen to it many, many times over.


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Publication: Reed Organ Society Quarterly
Date: Winter 2009
Reviewer: John Hodge


Scott Brothers Duo - Duos for Harmonium and Piano - SBDRCD003

Faultless playing by two talented brothers

It is not very often that one encounters a recording of music that is rarely heard today. The harmonium was eclipsed sometime in the 1930s when electronic instruments came to the fore. However there has been a resurgence in reed organs of various types leading to the development of societies such as ROS and others. This has resulted in recordings of music written especially for these instruments as well as the staging of conventions, symposia and concerts.

This new CD by Jonathan and Tom Scott is not the first to feature duos for harmonium and piano. The Cesar Franck Prelude, Fugue and Variation was recorded 20 years ago. In the 1990s the works of Saint-Saëns, Karg-Elert and Guilmant for the two instruments were recorded. This disc was recorded on November 30th 2008 and includes the above-mentioned work by Franck and duos by Sain-Saens and Guilmant. What makes this recording special is the inclusion of arrangements by Jonathan Scott of the music of Gounod, Mascagni, Fauré and which concludes with a stirring performance of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre.

What characterises this particular disc from others is not only the faultless playing but also the complete understanding between the players resulting in the correct balance between the two instruments. I also gain the impression that they are both enjoying their playing. The obvious understanding between the two brothers also contributes to the arrangements. The sensitive rendition of Fauré’s Après un rêve entirely supports the text of the poem on which it is based.

This CD is a superb recording from start to finish and the accompanying booklet is very well constructed. Not only are there notes on each piece played there is a full specification of the Mustel harmonium and information on the performers. The level of performance is outstanding and I recommend it highly.


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Publication: REED ORGAN SOCIETY QUARTERLY (USA)
Date: VOL. XXVIV, No.1, 2010
Reviewer: Michael Hendron

Scott Brothers Duo - Duos for Harmonium and Piano - SBDRCD003

This recording showcases the considerable talents of two young English brothers, Jonathan and Tom Scott, playing harmonium and piano, respectively. The restored 1880 Mustel harmonium is perfectly in tune with the Steinway grand; the recording was made in a nicely reverberant university hall near Manchester, England. The Mustel is from the collection of Pam and Phil Fluke, who apparently introduced the Scotts to the harmonium a few years ago. The 71-minute disc features several works written for this combination of instruments by late-Romantic French composers, as well as four original arrangements by Jonathan Scott. The disc itself is very professionally presented in a tri-fold cardstock case; the liner notes provide good photos and full specification of the Mustel.

Let us begin with the nineteenth-century works. Saint-Saëns wrote his Six Duos, Op. 8, in 1858, when he was 23. The composer’s youthful vigour is perfectly matched by the two performers. The set happily opend the disc with a blend of gravitas, virtuosity and brio. There are two pieces by Guilmant: first, a wistful Pastorale, followed by a Prière, originally written for organ in 1862 and later arranged by the composer for harmonium and piano. Certain musical progressions, and the texture of the duet writing in the Prière, seem to recall or predict Gounod’s tretment of Bach’s first prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier (see below), but the pieces are in fact quite unrelated. The Prélude, Fugue & Variation, Op. 18 by Franck is given in its 1874 duo format, austere but beautiful. The liner notes relate that the brothers César and Joseph Franck often performed together, possibly including this very piece; it is good to hear another fraternal team perform the work with such sympathy.

Scott’s arrangements of similar repertoire fill slightly less than half the disc. The ever popular Meditation by Gounod (think “Ave Maria”) is given in homage to a lost arrangement of the same by Alphonse Mustel, grandson of the Harmonium’s builder. The equally familiar Intermezzo, from Mascagni’s opera “Cavalleria Rusticana,” thougb lovely in its melody and rich sonorities, is a slight anomaly in this otherwise French program.

The recording closes with two further important - I dare say-arrangements by Scott. The setting of Fauré’s song “Après un rêve” is truly breathtaking in its ravishing haze of sound, though never lacking in drive, subtlety or musicianship. (the brothers have also created a film featuring this piece, which may be seen on YouTube; it, in turn, is certainly the most beautiful music video this reviewer has yet seen.) Lastly, the Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns is a virtuosi showpiece for the two instruments. I have been fortunate enough to see Scott’s score, which requires technical mastery and firm stamina from both players. The scill with which the orchestral writing is set for the two keyboards is masterful and fully balanced; rich in effects, thick in texture but never blurry. The piece is a super addition to the body of works for harmonium and piano, just as this disc is an excellent contribution to the reed organ’s recorded literature.

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