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
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