Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Scottish music, with a wee dram

Fingal's Cave, Island of Staffa, Scotland, around 1900
I've lined up a few review discs from or about Scotland that I'll be posting in the next few weeks, so I thought I'd read up on the place. I'm really enjoying a 1984 book called John Prebble's Scotland. Prebble, a fine historian born in Saskatchewan, made a film for the BBC in 1980 called Mendelssohn in Scotland (unfortunately unavailable on disc or online), which follows the composer's 1829 Scottish trip.
Felix Mendelssohn's first sight of Mull was from the shell of Dunollie Castle above the town of Oban, and in a flush of responsive emotion he declaimed some appropriate stanzas from The Lord of the Isles. The first notes of his overture, however, were not inspired by the green surge of waves against Staffa's rocks but by the piston-throb of the little steamer Highlander as he lay below, sick in heart and stomach. He spent much of that miserable voyage about the coast of Mull wrapped in a blanket and revolted by the smell of onions frying in the ship's galley. He did not go ashore on Staffa, unlike his healthful friend Klingemann who leapt onto its wet stones and shouted his elation against the basalt columns of Fingal's Cave.
I came across a really cool website, Stephen Carpenter's Mendelssohn in Scotland, which contains complete information on Felix's trip with his friend, with pictures, maps and excerpts from letters and diaries. I'm looking forward to exploring this in more detail. Here is the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, under Jaime Laredo, playing the Hebrides Overture, "Fingal's Cave". According to the MinS website, Mendelssohn may have found his inspiration not at Fingal's Cave, but earlier on the boat trip from Oban to Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull.

And to go with Scottish music, a wee dram of whisky from Islay:

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