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Hyperion Records

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A Spate in the Highlands (1866) by Peter Graham (1836-1921)
© Manchester City Art Galleries
Track(s) taken from CDA66815
Recording details: April 1995
Govan Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Tony Kime
Release date: November 1995
Total duration: 33 minutes 12 seconds

'Another consistently, thoroughly enjoyable Hyperion disc of discovery. The sound is demonstration class, with a floorboard-cracking bass end' (BBC Music Magazine Top 1000 CDs Guide)

'Yet again Hyperion successfully rediscovers one of our neglected Victorian composers … Admirers of Hyperion's earlier efforts need not hesitate to buy this' (Classic CD)

Jeanie Deans
composer
first performed on 13 November 1894; a grand opera in four acts
author of text
after Sir Walter Scott's Heart of Midlothian

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
MacCunn’s outstanding opera, Jeanie Deans, was first performed by the Carl Rosa Opera Company at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, on 13 November 1894. It made a brilliant tour of the provinces ending with its London debut (22 January 1896). It was in repertoire until the 1920s (when Puccini swept the stage) and has been several times revived (most recently by Opera West in 1986 and 1994), on all occasions being highly praised, which makes it truly astonishing that this is the first recording with orchestra of any part of it at all.

Nicholas Temperley has described it as ‘unquestionably the finest opera of the late Victorian period’, praising its ‘refreshingly personal idiom’ and powers of musical characterization, and finding in it ‘a prophetic touch of twentieth-century realism …’ (Music in Britain, The Romantic Age).

The central characters are two sisters; Effie Deans, who has to confess the birth of an illegitimate child to her sister Jeanie, the heroine, whose faith, honour, simplicity and nobility are the true subject matter of the opera. Effie, accused of child murder, has her own honour too, refusing to reject her seducer or to allow even the slightest subterfuge to save herself from imprisonment for a crime she denies with unswerving sincerity, and under the terrible rejection of her father.

Her lover, faithful too in his own way, attempts to rescue her from prison during the Porteous riots in Edinburgh—but again she refuses the easy way out. She is saved by Jeanie’s heroic, barefoot journey to London where persuasive goodness wins, via Queen Caroline’s intercession, a Royal pardon for her sister which arrives in the nick of time.

The story is based on Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian, a title which cynically refers to the old Tolbooth prison formerly in Edinburgh’s High Street, but which Scott and MacCunn have now made synonymous with all that is best in human nature.

As a whole, the opera is tightly constructed, the scenes dramatically paced, and the musical inspiration sustained—especially in Jeanie’s impassioned pleading before the Queen. Finally, her and Jeanie’s faith in ultimate justice is vindicated. Effie’s father has forgiven her and Staunton and his men’s resistance to the guard is made unnecessary by the arrival of Jeanie with the Royal pardon.

from notes by John Purser © 1995

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