About this Recording
2.110529 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SCOTLAND: Edinburgh, the Highlands, and the Hebrides (NTSC)

A Musical Tour of Edinburgh, the Highlands and the Hebrides
With music by Felix Mendelssohn


Holyrood House and St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh • The Highlands Memorial of Mary Queen of Scots, Westminster Abbey

The Palace of Holyrood had its origin in a guest-house for an abbey established by King David I of Scotland in the 12th century. The abbey fell into ruin and the palace itself underwent various changes, not least after fire damage under the mid-17th century Protectorate, after which it was significantly restored under King Charles II, by the King’s Surveyor-General William Bruce and the King’s Master Mason Robert Mylne. Parts of the earlier building that survive, however, include the North-West tower, built for King James V of Scotland, father of Mary, Queen of Scots, who died a few days after her birth in 1542. The tragic story of Queen Mary, married to the French Dauphin and after his death to Lord Darnley and, when he died, to the Earl of Bothwell, had a particular appeal to the romantic 19th century, not least through Schiller’s play dealing with her death, executed after imprisonment by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England, whose protection she had sought. St Giles’ Cathedral, in the Old Town, has developed gradually, with the medieval Burgh Kirk later provided with a Georgian Gothic casing and a Victorian internal restoration. The 15th century central tower and spire is a familiar element of the sky-line of the Old Town. The Cathedral is more properly known as the High Kirk, since, in the established Presbyterian religion of Scotland, there are no bishops. The road in Edinburgh that leads from Holyrood to the Castle and the Mound is known as the Royal Mile, passing through streets of old houses and by the High Kirk of St Giles’. Parallel to the Royal Mile is Princes Street, completed in 1805, and containing the 220-foot-high neo-Gothic memorial to the novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott, a leading figure in the international propagation of the idea of Scotland as a country of romantic appeal, through its history, its literature and its landscape. Calton Hill, wîth the classical façade of the former Royal High School provides from its height a view over the city, over the medieval Old Town and the symmetrical 18th century New Town. The romantic castle on its isolated promontory, a reminder of the earlier imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, by her nobles, is the 12th century Eilean Donan Castle, partly destroyed by an English warship in 1712, but later restored. The Queen herself, executed on the orders of the Queen of England in 1587, after nearly twenty years’ imprisonment, has her memorial in Westminster Abbey in London.

Music   Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ‘Scottish’ –
             I. Andante con moto—Allegro un poco agitato—Andante come prima

Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony opens with bars that he had first sketched in Holyrood chapel in Edinburgh. The main part of the first movement introduces a theme of Scottish colour, played by clarinet and strings, and the clarinet introduces the second subject, the material splendidly developed. The movement ends with a return to the opening. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.553200]

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has served various purposes during its long history, whether as a royal residence or as a stronghold. Constructed on the summit of the hill known as The Mound, it dominates the city, overlooking the principal thoroughfare, Princes Street, with gardens in the intervening valley below. From its early medieval or more primitive origins, the Castle was gradually developed and remodelled, until it reached its present form, approached now through a late 19th century gatehouse. At the highest point of the Castle Rock is St Margaret’s Chapel, a 12th century building extensively restored in more recent times. The Castle, which underwent siege in 1573, when it was successfully defended by the Queen’s supporter, Kirkcaldy of Grange, provides a view over the city below.

Music   Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ‘Scottish’ –
             II. Vivace non troppo

The second movement of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony suggests the sound of the bagpipes, with themes of obvious Scottish affinity.

Duart Castle • Torosay Castle and Landscape, Isle of Mull

Duart Castie, of 13th century origin, built on a promontory on the Isle of Mull, suffered after the defeat of the Macleans, supporters of the Stuart cause in the risings against Hanoverian domination, and fell into ruin in the 1750s, when the Macleans forfeited their land. The building was restored by Sir Fitzroy Maclean. Torosay Castle is a much newer building, a characteristic example of Victorian neo-Gothic, with fine gardens that contain a variety of Italian statuary.

Music   Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ‘Scottish’ –
             III. Adagio

The third movement of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony is lyrical in mood, with hints of martial valour to come.

Inverary Castle • Castle and City Scenes, Edinburgh Pitlochry Whisky Distillery, Pitlochry

Inverary Castle is the home of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell. The present castle was built in 1743 on the site of a 15th century building, with designs partly by the Adam brothers of Edinburgh and decoration of the interior by the 18th century architect and designer Robert Mylne. Public rooms include a fine reception apartment and a magnificent dining-room, with a table that allows the display of various gilt and silver artefacts, not least an elaborately worked sailing-ship, with its crew. The village of Blair Atholl belongs to the Murrays, Dukes of Atholl, who have their castle there, near Pitlochry wîth its famous small distillery. The bagpipe remains as much a part of Scottish cultural life as the kilt, worn on more special occasions.

Music   Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ‘Scottish’ –
             IV. Allegro vivacissimo—Allegro maestoso assai

Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony ends with a movement that seems to derive its five themes from Scottish songs, the identity of which has aroused continuing speculation from those who like to hear in the music the gathering of the clans.

Isle of Mull • Fingal’s Cave, Staffa, The Hebrides

The small uninhabited island of Staffa is known for its curious geological formation, produced by early volcanic eruption on the Isle of Mull. The basalt rock columns reminded Mendelssohn of organ pipes, particularly in the hollow in the rocks known as Fingal’s Cave, after the legendary giant. Mull itself has areas of wilderness, a reminder of the noble and wide prospects admired by some at least of the 18th century travellers that made their way North.

Music   Mendelssohn: The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave)

Mendelssohn suffered badly from sea-sickness during his voyage by steamer to see Fingal’s Cave. When the worst was over, he managed to sketch a theme for a work that was originally to be called The Lonely Island. The title Fingal’s Cave was the inspiration of Mendelssohn’s publisher, even if the music itself was suggested not by Staffa but rather by another island. [Recommended recording Naxos 8.554433]

Keith Anderson

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