DUOS FOR HARMONIUM & PIANO - SCOTT BROTHERS DUO
Date: February 2010
Reviewer: Andrew Fletcher
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!
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 Francks own arrangement of his Prelude, Fugue
and Variation (which is a real delight to hear; and now I know where
the arpeggios in Harold Bauers piano arrangement of this work
come from - Franck himself.) there are Jonathan Scotts 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
Mascagnis Cavalleria Rusticana, Faurés 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
dont 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.
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 Faurés
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.
Publication: REED ORGAN SOCIETY QUARTERLY
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 composers
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 Gounods tretment of Bachs 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.
Scotts 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 Harmoniums builder. The
equally familiar Intermezzo, from Mascagnis 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 Faurés 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 Scotts 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 organs