Scott Borthers Duo


Duets For Piano


Publication: International Piano Magazine
Date: JUNE 2008
Reviewer: Julian Haylock

Duets for Piano - Scott Brothers Duo - SBRDCD002

There are few piano duet recordings so beautifully engineered as this exemplary production from one half of the Scott Brothers, Tom - think Philips Dutch LP pressings at their velvety, late 1970s analogue best and you’ll be somewhere near the mark. All of which would count for nothing if the performances by brothers Jonathan and Tom were not so sensitively voiced or tonally beguiling. Somehow they manage to articulate these priceless miniatures with an ear-tweaking clarity reminiscent of the Kontarsky Brothers, while at the same time maintaining the kind of seductive cantabile we’ve come to expect from the Labèque Sisters in recent years. They could have let their hair down with greater abandon in the galloping final section of Rossini’s William Tell Overture à la Gottschalk, but I doubt whether Debussy’s Petite Suite or Ravel’s Ma mère loye have ever sounded more beguiling on disc.

Date: 20 JUNE 2008
Reviewer: Jonathan Woolf

Duets for Piano - Scott Brothers Duo - SBRDCD002

This is the second disc issued by the youthful Scott brothers on their own label. The first was a sequence of duos for organ and piano, many of the pieces in arrangements by Jonathan Scott (see review). This disc obviously differs inasmuch as this is a recital of piano duos, Jonathan having forsaken the organ for the piano school. The previous disc was recorded in Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and this one in Peel Hall, University of Salford.

The brothers certainly like to programme things appositely. A spicy overture and a rousing finale are the twin brackets of this disc whilst the central panel contains an intriguing and well-contrasted series of pieces. We open with the William Tell overture – yes, but it’s in the sparkling Gottschalk arrangement. With commendably clear, detailed and well balanced sound this goes well, with an especially good storm. Debussy’s Petite Suite cements the affinity the Scott brothers clearly possess for French music, something they demonstrated in that previous recital disc. En bateau is played with limpid refinement, and there’s fine élan in Cortège. Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” (from the Hunting Cantata BWV 208) is heard in the famous Mary Howe arrangement, possibly the best known recording of which was by the illustrious duo team of Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson. The Scott Brothers performance is attractive, persuasive and not over reverent.

It comes as something of a surprise to stumble over Ligeti in this series of pieces but this is early, fiercely Bartókian Ligeti. The Sonatina was written in 1950 and at four and a half minutes it hardly outstays its welcome. The main influence is Mikrokosmos and it exudes an earthy pungency that is attractive. From Ligeti back to Ravel – especially the Ravel of Ma Mère l’Oye - is quite a stylistic step. But the brothers summon up a requisite range of colours, a deft rhythmic skill and good articulation to do justice to this very different work. Their ensemble is watertight and they bring a strong sense of characterisation to bear. Le jardin féerique is especially well and imaginatively coloured.

Schubert’s Fantasie sits at the heart of the programme architecturally. The brothers are especially well attuned to dynamic variance here and their vital, energised approach to the work’s more torrid features is notable. The Rimsky marks a fun end to a well chosen and highly accomplished duo recital.