“Substance, indeed imposing talent…Sobriety and good sense, followed by dashing virtuosity and playful good humor.”
“Mr. Scott’s powerful account [of Messiaen] left no question that he had deeply considered every detail of dynamics and pacing, yet his playing gave the impression of spontaneous invention”
“‘Messiah’ There is no lack of excellent performances of Handel’s seasonal oratorio at Christmastime in New York. But the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, trained and conducted by John Scott, is generally first off the mark and often stands up as the best in the end. As always, the orchestra is the fine period-instrument Concert Royal.”
Reverence and Rapture, Expressed by an Organ
by Steve Smith
“If anything could convince a committed disbeliever to question that stance, it might be the organ music of Olivier Messiaen, whose rapturous outpourings amount to religious faith made manifest in sound. Messiaen, whose centenary arrives in December, has received considerable attention this season.
Now John Scott, the organist and music director at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, is performing Messiaen’s complete organ works in ‘Six Saturdays With Messiaen,’ a concert series on the church’s imposing Arents Memorial Organ, a Skinner instrument built in 1913.
Mr. Scott, who offered a comprehensive Buxtehude survey last year, opened the Messiaen series on Saturday afternoon with ‘Prélude,’ a brief student work from the late 1920’s. Conservative compared with Messiaen’s later achievements and reminiscent of music by Marcel Dupré, his teacher, the piece is still unmistakably Messiaen from it opening bars. Already there is a loosening of conventional harmony, an appreciation of vivid colors and a flair for the dramatic, most notably in a startling shift from mellow to edgy registers midway through.
The other work on the program was ‘La Nativité du Seigneur’ (1935), an hourlong set of nine Christmas meditations. Messiaen’s enigmatic harmonies and ecstatic rhythmic flurries render palpable his reverence and awe in the face of Christian mystery, with a passion verging at times on eroticism and terror. Mr. Scott’s powerful account left no question that he had deeply considered every detail of dynamics and pacing, yet his playing gave the impression of spontaneous invention.”