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Anthony Scott

My early music publishing days in the 50s and 60s provided a profusion of opportunities for meeting composers, especially those who had been in the forces and were anxiously making up for lost time.

I first heard of Anthony Scott when Oxford University Press published his Prelude and Fugue for organ dedicated to Gerald Finzi. Quintessentially English and partially influenced by Finzi with whom he had studied (also with Vaughan Williams), it was a sturdy work and well set for the instrument. I wrote to Scott for a meeting, which followed quite soon; and we have remained friends and still keep in touch to this day, and he is still composing.

One incident sticks in my mind. A Concerto grosso for strings by Scott was being rehearsed in a Kensington church, to which Tony had invited Vaughan Williams. The great man sat with a score and followed the vigorous, contrapuntal writing to its final chord with full attention. He then turned to Scott and said 'Goodness, that's the Grosse Fuge with knobs on!' So unexpected was the remark that Scott just gave a huge grin.

This was a talented composer whose war years were spent in RAF Bomber Command as a navigator, and who took part in several of the massed raids on Germany which suffered severe losses. I did not know Scott before the war, but saw clear signs of how such experiences had affected him when he was struggling for recognition as a composer.

I feel certain that composers who were in the front line in whatever service had problems shedding the effects of battle when they returned to civilian life. Such a mental struggle was the same for any man, but those who were actively creative desperately needed the muse to return. War does sometimes generate a raging fire of emotions within creative artists that throws out poetry, prose, and music of a dramatic intensity commensurate with the event. In Anthony Scott I saw only a continuity of writing music. If the nights over flame-torn cities had seared his soul, he did not speak of this to me. How immensely varied is the artist in his response to events that please or terrify.

Copyright © Basil Ramsey, 1 February 1999

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