By Mendelssohn’s day, there was a venerable tradition of great composers arranging folk songs: Haydn did it, and so did Beethoven. Only days before his nephew Felix Dirichlet’s death of complications from measles on 17 November 1838, Mendelssohn provided the contralto Mary Shaw (1814–1876) with his arrangement of a familiar Scottish folksong, ‘O dinna ask me’ (it begins, appropriately enough, with a ‘Scotch snap’ rhythmic pattern). The audience loved it, and the publisher Friedrich Kistner then asked Mendelssohn for still more Scottish songs. Despite the family’s grief, Mendelssohn obliged in December with five more, the group of six songs published in February 1839 as Sechs schottische National-Lieder
with no mention of Mendelssohn’s hand in the matter.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2010