About this Recording
2.110341 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SCOTLAND AND ITS CASTLES: Edinburgh / Inveraray / Urquhart / Blair / Eilean Donan / Dunvegan (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to Scotland
With music by Edward Elgar

 

CHAPTER 1

Blair Castle • Isle of Mull • Guards, Edinburgh Castle

Blair Castle occupies a strategic position, guarding the way to the Central Highlands. The castle belongs to the Duke of Atholl, the only individual in the United Kingdom who retains a right to a private army. It was largely restored in the 19th century and contains hunting trophies and ancestral portraits. The Isle of Mull, with its crofters and fishermen, provides a deceptive variety of scenery. Its Highland cattle and sheep reflect its principal farming interests.

Music Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85 – I. Adagio –Moderato – II. Lento – Allegro molto

For many Edward Elgar has unfairly been identified with the heyday of British Imperialism. The overtly patriotic compositions of the period before 1914 may now suggest jingoism, although in their own time they may have had a very proper purpose, while the image of the composer as a man more interested in his dogs and horses than in the concert-hall gives a very false impression of an English musician of sensitivity and, incidentally, of relatively humble origins, who owed much to the traditions of Germany and Central Europe.

The Cello Concerto was written relatively late in Elgar’s active career as a composer, in the period that followed the war of 1914–1918, when he had found a new economy of means in his writing. He worked on the composition in the summer of 1918 with the cellist Felix Salmond, but the first public performance gave him little satisfaction. The work was grossly under-rehearsed, thanks to the conductor, Albert Coates, who allocated the available time to work on Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, keeping Elgar waiting for an hour. The public response was lukewarm. Since then, of course, the concerto has taken its place as one of the most moving works in the cello repertoire. The first movement of the concerto opens with a grandiose statement by the soloist, leading, in an almost improvisatory style, to a lilting melody announced by the violas. This is repeated by the soloist, who continues to dominate the movement. Plucked chords by the cellist lead to a second movement, a melancholy Scherzo in which the soloist is again to the fore, with orchestration of the greatest economy.

CHAPTER 2

Edinburgh Castle • Inveraray Castle • Landscape

Edinburgh Castle is built on the prominent hill that dominates the heart of the city, a site that was fortified even, perhaps, in the 7th century. Over the centuries the castle has served variously as a royal residence, a stronghold and an ordnance factory and barracks. Inveraray Castle, on Loch Fyne, is the seat of the Duke of Argyll, head of the clan Campbell. The present building was started in 1743 and is neo-Gothic in style. It contains fine interiors and works of art.

Music Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85 – III. Adagio

There is still greater poignancy in the brief slow movement of the concerto, a continuous solo for the cello.

CHAPTER 3

Urquhart Castle • Eilean Donan Castle • Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye • Isle of Mull

The ruins of Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, are a reminder of the events of 1745, with the rising under Prince Charles Edward Stuart that nearly succeeded in displacing the Hanoverian monarchy in London. The castle was blown up by the Hanoverians to prevent its use by the Stuart forces, as the rising was suppressed with a cruelty still remembered in the scattered surrounding villages. The picturesque Eilean Donan Castle, in Wester Ross, is on the banks of Loch Duich. It is the seat of the clan Mackenzie. The curious isolated rock formation, 150 feet in height, known as the Old Man of Storr makes a strange landmark on the Isle of Skye.

Music Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85 – IV. Allegro ma non troppo

The final rondo opens with eight bars in which the first theme is suggested, to be interrupted by a declamatory statement from the soloist, before the movement is allowed to take its full course. Even then, the excitement and joy of the principal theme are broken by references to earlier themes in the concerto and the mood of autumnal, introspective melancholy that makes this one of Elgar’s greatest works. At the end of the score, where Haydn might have written his thanks to God, Elgar wrote the words Finis. R. I. P. (The End. May he rest in peace.), intentionally or not signalling the end of the concerto as the end of his own creative life, the end of a war, but also the end of an age.

CHAPTER 4

Landscapes and Skyscapes

The western skies over the highlands, lochs and moorlands provide an ever-changing spectacle.

Music Elgar: Elegy, Op 58

Elgar’s Elegy, Op 58, for string orchestra and harp, was written in 1909. The music is intensely moving and heart-felt, reflecting, it may be supposed, sorrow at the recent death of colleagues, notably of his friend and adviser August Johannes Jaeger, the Nimrod of Elgar’s Enigma
Variations.

CHAPTER 5

Edinburgh: Castle • Holyrood House • St Giles Cathedral • High Street • Princes Street • Wellington Memorial • Scott Memorial • Calton Hill • Talisker Whisky Distillery

From the castle in Edinburgh it is possible to look down at the principal street of the modern city, Princes Street, planned as part of the first New Town, started in 1767, and reflecting in its name and those of the neighbouring streets, the Hanoverian monarchy under George III. The Palace of Holyroodhouse, adjunct to the Abbey founded there by King David I in 1128, has served various purposes during its long history. Its use as a palace was resumed in 1822 under George IV, on the occasion of his visit to Scotland, and its final restoration for this purpose took place under Queen Victoria, when those who had had hereditary rights of residence were finally moved. The Royal Mile stretches from Holyroodhouse up Canongate and High Street to St Giles Cathedral, with its characteristic crown spire, dating from the 15th century, part of a much older building that has undergone many changes.

The Wellington Memorial of 1848 has the Duke of Wellington mounted. It is by John Steell and is at the east end of Princes Street, opposite the Register House. The Scott Monument in Princes Street was eventually completed in 1846. The statue of Sir Walter Scott himself, and his dog, is by John Steell, carved from a massive block of Carrara marble. The 200 foot sandstone monument itself, in characteristic neo-Gothic style, was designed by the self-taught architect George Meikle Kemp, a carpenter by trade.

On Calton Hill, to the east of Princes Street, stands the National Monument, an unfinished attempt to emulate the Parthenon, with the support of Scott and Lord Elgin, among others. It was the work of C. R. Cockerell and William H. Playfair, was started in 1826 as a memorial to the dead in the Napoleonic Wars and abandoned three years later. The Nelson Monument was completed in 1816 and other monuments on Calton Hill include the Observatory and the Dugal Stewart Monument of 1831.

The Talisker Whisky Distillery on the Isle of Skye illustrates the production of a drink characteristically associated with Scotland.

Music Elgar: Introduction and Allegro, Op 47

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Op 47, was written in 1909 and dedicated to the memory of the Reverend R. H. Hadden, Junior Warden of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. It contrasts a string quartet with the main body of the string orchestra, a form suggesting the baroque concerto grosso. The romantic texture is enriched by sub-division of the sections of the orchestra and the characteristic sweep of Elgar’s writing for strings. The Introduction suggests the principal themes that are to follow in the Allegro, the opening providing the broad second theme and the first entry of the quartet proposing material for the first theme. The work moves forward to a brilliantly worked fugal section that leads back to the re-appearance of the first theme, with the second theme now appropriately changed in key, and a final triumphant reference to the Introduction.

CHAPTER 6

Scottish Weaving Mill • Isle of Staffa • Isle of Mull

Weaving has had particular importance in a land where sheep-farming eventually assumed importance. While the kilt might have been the traditional wear of highlanders, it was with the visit of George IV to Scotland in 1822 that, with the help of Sir Walter Scott, tartan became fashionable, with clans associated with particular patterns of weave and the overweight King clad in swathes of Royal Stewart tartan, over pink tights. Queen Victoria added to the fashion when she established a residence for herself on Deeside at Balmoral. Other weavers have brought popularity to various forms of tweed, a fabric suited to the climate of its place of origin.

Music Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op 20 – I. Allegro piacevole

The Serenade for Strings, Op 20, was written in 1892, shortly after Elgar’s marriage, at a time when it seemed unlikely that he would win a foothold in the musical world of London. It probably originates in an earlier work, Three Pieces for Strings, written in 1888. The first professional performance was given in New Brighton in 1899 under Elgar’s direction. A work of characteristically sweet melancholy, the Serenade opens with the pulsating rhythm of the viola.

CHAPTER 7

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye • Seals

Dunvegan Castle, on the west coast of Skye, has been the residence of the MacLeods for some seven hundred years. It has richly ornamented rooms and a wealth of pictures, together with relics of its past historical associations.

Music Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op 20 – II. Larghetto

The second movement of the Serenade is an expressive Larghetto.

CHAPTER 8

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

With its square towers and battlements Dunvegan dominates the surrounding country. Among its relics is the so-called Fairy Flag, either brought back from the Crusades or bestowed on a lucky MacLeod by a fairy, with three wishes, for heirs, for fish in the loch below and for victory in battle, the last achieved against the MacDonalds in 1597.

Music Elgar: Serenade for Strings, Op 20 – III. Allegretto

The final Allegretto explores again the rich possibilities of divided string sections and the briefly contrasted sound of the solo violin.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Cello Concerto: Karina Georgian, Cello; Moscow Symphony Orchestra cond. Konstantin Krinetz [Amadis 7149]

Introduction and Allegro, Elegy, Serenade: Capella Istropolitana, cond. Adrian Leaper [Naxos 8.554409]


Close the window