GMCD 7128 – John Scott plays Liszt

John Scott – Organ

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Scott, one of Englands best known contemporary church musicians, performs on the venerable Willis installation in St. Pauls. Perhaps the restoration and upgrading done in the past five years prompted this new disc. The program is extremely weighty, and the remarkable acoustics are not necessarily an asset. Scott is a fine technician, but some of his efforts are clouded by the enormous resonance. Still, the high pressure trumpets are thrilling in the Gigout. One is reminded of the Royal Trumpets announcing the arrival of Princess Di. Pieces like this, with some spaces included to allow for echo, work best. In like manner the Handel arrangement by Guilmant is registered modestly so that the recording suffers only in the tutti sections when the Pedal tends to dominate. The Mulet seems too frantic, and details – such as they are – are obscured. A cleaner version, by Murray (Arkay 6111), is preferable.

The Langlais, on the other hand, is every bit as exciting as Mathieus’ performance (Naxos 553190, May/June 1996). The Messiaen-like composition, replete with dark brooding solo Pedal bursts and angular lines, ends with the wild, onslaught of locusts described in Revelation. The performance is hard-edged and aggressive. Liszt’s lengthy Ad nos is also most satisfying, certainly comparable to Muylbury (Afka 535). The quieter middle section is particularly rewarding, as the simpler textures can be heard without distraction. Nonetheless, the tutti sections, especially when the Pedal registration is full, get a bit messy. The overlap of sound is clearly unavoidable, but it occasionally spoils any hope of clarity. Scott does a fine job here and often allows greater space between full homophonic textures and chord progressions so that the just-played portions have a chance to float off into those vast spaces. Aside from the overall weight of these pieces, which prevents any variety in the program, this is a well played neatly executed recital.

BBC Music Magazine April 1997

The organ at St. Pauls Cathedral is perhaps not the easiest instrument to record, but this does capture its cornucopian resources extremely well. The instrument’s potential for tremendous power and a wide range of colourful and (despite the acoustic) detailed sonorities is exploited well by Scott in the re-release. His playing is always judiciously measured in the overt French repertoire and suitably ruminative in the volatile Liszt Fantasia. The Langlais La cinquième trompette from his Méditations sur l’acocalypse (1973), is almost life-transforming in its persuasiveness.
Andrew McCrea



Classic CD April 1997

Should you have neighbours above, below, next door or across the street, then I suggest you play this disc when they are out, having first ensured that you have the speakers to take it. Then you can revel in the sheer volume of sound (and the eight seconds reverberation) produced by John Scott at St Paul’s.

The principal work is Liszt’s monumental Fantasy and Fugue on the theme from Meyerbeer’s opera Le Prophet, among the cornerstones of the organist’s repertory and one of the most difficult. It lasts over half an hour. Xavier Darasse on Erato plays with greater clarity but less involvement; Nicholas Kynaston on IMP offers perhaps the most tumultuous performance, despite much detail being lost on the way for, as with Scott, the big acoustic transforms fast complex passagework into a wash of sound. But Scott’s is a gloriously-coloured reading, dignified, virtuosic – and thunderous. The preceding items, shorter French showpieces, are a testament to the endurance of Mr. Scott’s ear drums. I loved every minute of it.
Jeremy Nicholas

“Committed, exhilarating performances of magnificent organ showpieces”