HSO Concert: “Celtic Dreaming”, Sunday August 28th 2011
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 –1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. He was born into a notable ethnically Jewish family, and was recognised early as a musical prodigy although his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his abilities. Mendelssohn was particularly well-received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, and his ten visits there – during which many of his major works were premiered – form an important part of his adult career. He died at the age of 38 in Leipzig after a series of strokes.
Fingal's Cave is on the uninhabited island of Staffa, near Mull in the inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is formed entirely from hexagonally-jointed basalt columns that are part of the same ancient lava flow that formed the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. The cave's Gaelic name means "cave of melody".
In 1829 Felix Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave. In a letter to his family, after a rather stormy two–day cruise among the Inner Hebrides he wrote “In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.” The musical extract he enclosed was the opening theme of the overture. However, Mendelssohn changed the name, rather confusingly using the title “Hebrides overture” on the orchestral parts, but “Fingal’s Cave” on the full score.
Although called an overture, it is a self contained work. It conjures up a whole seascape including the grandeur of the cave, the swelling of the sea, the light on the water and the fury of the waves breaking on the cliffs.
The overture uses the sonata form of the classical period. The first subject, played at the opening by the lower strings and bassoons, is a lyrical theme evoking the stunning beauty of the cave. It is developed and extended in various ways suggesting the beauty of the natural surroundings. The second subject, in the relative major key, is longer and more lyrical and evokes the rolling movement of the waves. It builds to a tremendous climax where a closing theme, very strongly related to the first subject explodes with excitement.
Eire, Suite for Orchestra:
Anthony Collins was born in Sussex, UK, in 1893. Beginning in 1920 he studied violin with Achille Rivarde and composition with Gustav Holst at the Royal College of Music. In 1926, he began his musical career performing as principal viola in the London Symphony Orchestra. For ten years he performed in that orchestra and also in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra. For the rest of his career he divided his time between conducting and composition, beginning with opera and moving to orchestra. He died at the age of 70 in 1963.
In 1938 he composed “Eire, Suite for Orchestra” founded upon three Irish Songs: “Battle March”, “To The Mourne Mountains” and “Fluter’s Hooley”.
Celtic Theme and Variations:
Lindsay Davidson (1973 - ) was taught the Great Highland bagpipes from the age of nine. He studied at Edinburgh University and was the first person in the world to study for a music degree specifically and exclusively as a piper. He has developed a new system of teaching piping which has been adopted across the world.
Celtic Theme and Variations was commissioned and composed especially for the Hills Symphony Orchestra in this, our 30th year.
Suite of Scottish Dances:
William Alwyn (1905 – 1985) was born in Northampton UK where he showed an early interest in music and began to play the piccolo. At the age of 15 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied flute and composition. He was a virtuoso flautist and for a time played with the London Symphony Orchestra. Alwyn served as professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1926 to 1955.
“Suite of Scottish Dances” was composed in 1946 and comprises “The Indian Queen”, “A Trip to Italy”, “Colonel Thornton’s Strathspey”, “The Perth-Shire Hunt”, “Reel – Loch Earn”, “Carleton House” and “Miss Carnegie’s Hornpipe”.
This traditional tune from County Londonderry in Northern Ireland has been arranged for a brass ensemble by our very own Peter Hind.
Haydn Wood was born in 1882 into a large musical family in Yorkshire. His father was a brilliant amateur who conducted the local brass band. In 1885 the family moved to the Isle of Man, an island which was a source of inspiration for the composer. He entered the Royal College of Music in London at the age of 15 where he excelled in violin, piano and composition and he was soon known as a prodigy. He became a multi-talented professional, as a well-known violinist, a successful composer of light and classical music, and a conductor of his own works.
His “Manx Rhapsody” was written in 1931.
Lord of the Dance:
Sydney Carter (1916 – 2004) was born in Camden Town, London. He wrote “Lord Of The Dance” in 1963, as an adaptation of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts, which features in Aaron Copland's ballet Appalachian Spring. He said that he saw Christ as "the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ, I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other lords of the dance”.
Ronan Hardiman (born 1962, Dublin, Ireland) is an Irish composer, famous for his soundtracks to Michael Flatley's dance shows Lord of the Dance.