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Hyperion Records

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The Sacred Wood dear to the Arts and Muses (detail) (1884-9) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898)
Track(s) taken from CDA66630
Recording details: August 1992
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: November 1992
Total duration: 8 minutes 18 seconds

Two Heroic Ballads
composer
No 1: 19 November 1944; No 2: 24 November 1944

Kishmul's Galley  [4'26]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Throughout his career Bantock was fascinated by Celtic mythology. The publication of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's collections of Songs of the Hebrides focused his interest and provided thematic fuel for its musical expression. The two-act opera The Seal Woman (1924), the Hebridean Symphony (1913), and the Celtic Symphony (1940) are the most powerful and sustained expressions of this fruitful obsession. But there are lesser examples, and the Heroic Ballads, completed on 19 and 24 November 1944, respectively, are two of them. Both are built on songs from the Kennedy-Fraser collections. ‘Cuchullan’s Lament for his Son’ is to be found in Volume 2 (1917), as noted down by Kenneth Macleod from the singer Duncan Maclellan; and ‘Kishmul’s Galley’ in Volume 1 (1909), as collected by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser from the singing of Mary Macdonald on the island of Mingulay, Outer Hebrides.

Bantock’s treatment of both songs is exemplary. Not only does he respect the integrity of the original air but he allows it to develop symphonically in a dazzling display of orchestral wizardry. Cuchullan’s Lament is cast as an heroic threnody—the main theme announced by a solo trumpet. Cuchullan (or Cuchullin, Cuchulain, one of Ireland’s great mythic heroes) had the misfortune to slay his own son, not recognizing him. In the original song, as in Bantock’s miniature tone poem, he keeps a death watch over the stricken youth:

Woe is me! my son a-keening!
Loud o’er the moor my wail-cry,
Clanging thy shield and flame-keen sword,
Who lieth asleep in cold death.

Equally evocative is Kishmul’s Galley, whose melody Bantock had already used to marvellous effect in the Hebridean Symphony:

High from the Ben-a-Hayich
On a day of days
Seaward I gazed,
Watching Kishmul’s galley sailing.

Again the melody, heard first on the horns, provides thematic material for the entire movement, which grows organically in a wild, sea-tossed vision of ancient heroes and heroic splendour.

from notes by Michael Hurd © 1992

Other albums featuring this work
'Bantock: Orchestral Music' (CDS44281/6)
Bantock: Orchestral Music
MP3 £30.00FLAC £30.00ALAC £30.00Buy by post £33.00 CDS44281/6  6CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
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