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A Scottish Excursion

  • St Peter's Church Kensington Park Road London, England, W11 2PN United Kingdom (map)

Conductor: Graham Ross

Maxwell Davies An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise
Macmillan Tryst for orchestra
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 "Scottish"

Join us on Saturday February 3rd for a most wonderful celebration of Scottish-inspired music including works from Maxwell Davies, MacMillan and Mendelssohn. Conducted by Graham Ross.

An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise

One of Davies's lighter pieces, it lasts for approximately twelve minutes, and vividly depicts the riotous celebrations after a wedding on Orkney. The piece closes with the entry of the bagpipes, which Davies describes as symbolic of the rising sun over Caithness. It is notable for being one of the few pieces in classical repertoire to feature a bagpipe solo.

It was written to a commission by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who premiered it under John Williams in 1985. It has since been performed and recorded many times (twice by the composer himself) and has been established as one of Davies's most enduringly popular pieces.

Tryst For Orchestra

Composer James MacMillan writes: A few years ago I came across a love poem by William Soutar written in broad Scots, called The Tryst which I set to a very simple melody. This melody has persistently appeared, in various guises, in many works composed since – a congregational mass setting, a tiny fragment for violin and piano (After the Tryst) and more recently in my music theatre piece Búsqueda. Not only has it cropped up again in this piece, but it has provided both the title and the emotional core of the music. 

Its melodic characteristics, matching the original words, seem to imply many very strong associations – commitment, sanctity, intimacy, faith (it is used specifically in the Credo section of Búsqueda), love, but it is also saturated with a sadness as if all these things are about to expire. 

The music is in one continuous movement, but divided into five clearly defined sections, the slow middle section being the point where the melodic potential of the original tune is again explored. It is here elongated and ornamented on the strings, behind which one hears pulsating, throbbing colour chords. The opening section of the works is fast, energetic and rhythmic. The second section begins with slow homophonic wind chords which are interrupted by fast, violent interjections on the strings. These interjections gradually become more pervasive and expansive while the wind music transforms itself into shorter more brutal intrusions (i.e. the two music’s influence each other so that one eventually becomes the other and vice versa). 

After the slow third section, the melodic material from the opening is now presented in a quick, rhythmically brittle, but simple structured verse and refrain form. The final section combines fast music with solemn chordal ideas from the middle section. Tryst is dedicated to Susan Loy, my Grandmother, who died in 1989.

Symphony No. 3 "Scottish"

Mendelssohn composed the Symphony No. 3 in A minor, known as the Scottish, between 1829 and 1842.

Unusually, Mendelssohn marked the movements to be performed without break, and underlined the connection between the symphony's parts by making them grow from the continual thematic transformation of the original idea he had notated in 1829, presented in the slow introduction to the first movement. Despite this overriding concern for musical unity the emotional scope of the work is wide, consisting of a dark and stormy first movement, a joyous and fairly brief second movement, a slow movement maintaining an apparent struggle between love and fate, and a finale that takes its components from Scottish folk dance.

The lively second movement is melodically and rhythmically in the style of Scottish folk music, using the notes of the pentatonic scale and the characteristic Scotch snap rhythm, although no direct quotations have ever been identified. A novel feature lies in the coda of the finale, where Mendelssohn introduces a new majestic theme in A major to close the work in a contrasting manner to the rest of the A minor finale. Akin to a victory hymn and intended by Mendelssohn to allude to a male-voice choir, this ending returns to the balladic tone of the first movement's introduction, transforming the material of the original inspiration for the piece Mendelssohn had twelve years before.

Contemporary musicians such as Robert Schumann found the effect highly poetic, though some later twentieth-century critics have shown aversion to the 'happy ending'. The conductor Otto Klemperer, for instance, disliked this coda and wrote his own ending in a vein similar to the general character of the movement. However, removing the maestoso coda destroys the intricate cyclic structure Mendelssohn has created across the symphony's four movements.

Earlier Event: December 16
Fairy-Tale Opera
Later Event: April 21
Nights of Summer