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Pibroch 'Suite for violin and orchestra', Op 42
composed at the request of Sarasate for the 1889 Leeds Festival; completed in August and first performed on 10 October in Victoria Hall, Leeds, the composer conducting

'Mackenzie: Violin Concerto & Pibroch' (CDH55343)
Mackenzie: Violin Concerto & Pibroch
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55343  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Movement 1: Rhapsody: Lento
Movement 2: Caprice. Theme: Allegretto – Variations I–IX – Coda
Movement 3: Dance: Allegro vivace – Lento – Presto

Pibroch 'Suite for violin and orchestra', Op 42
The suite Pibroch for violin and orchestra, Op 42, followed some four years after the Violin Concerto and was written at the request of Sarasate for inclusion in the Leeds Festival programme of 1889. Appropriately, the work was completed on the composer’s native soil while he spent his summer vacation in Braemar during August 1889. He finished scoring the suite in just over ten days during the middle of his stay, having probably sketched the music beforehand. Writing from his Scottish holiday retreat to Nicholas Kilburn, a friend and choral director from North East England, on 16 August 1889 Mackenzie explained:

I have been here since the 1st August, enjoying the damp, cold weather and scoring a new violin piece for Sarasate in the mornings. I have just finished it ten minutes ago however, so another opus (good or bad) goes out into this world of strife. It is to come out at the Leeds Fest. but I don’t anticipate success there, as it is a Scottish effusion and likely at first at least to be mis-understanded [sic] of the people: now especially the Leeds people.

The suite may be grouped with other Scottish works by Mackenzie such as the Rhapsodie écossaise (1879), the Scotch Rhapsody No 2 ‘Burns’ (1880, recorded on Hyperion CDA66764), the Scottish Concerto (1897) and other smaller works whose musical idiom is derived from the use of traditional Scottish melodies. The first movement, as its title ‘Rhapsody’ suggests, has a very free structure and includes quasi-improvisational writing for the soloist with scant orchestral accompaniment. With its looseness of metre the violin figuration during this section gives the listener the feeling of an extended cadenza, although there are two discernible themes played by both soloist and orchestra which vie for attention between the elaborate cadenza-like episodes. In atmosphere it is very similar to the first movement of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy Op 46 (1880), also written for Sarasate; indeed this and Pibroch could be considered very much as companion works.

The work’s relationship to pibroch music is shown in the second movement, ‘Caprice’. Pibroch (Scottish Gaelic ‘piobaireachd’, meaning ‘pipe music’) is often considered to be the ‘classical’ music of the Scottish bagpipe repertory, as distinct from dance music such as reels and strathspeys. Musically it is related to the idea of a theme and variations which increase in complexity as the set progresses. The theme is called the ‘urlar’ (meaning ‘ground’ in Gaelic) and is often played later in the piece to remind listeners of the basis of the pibroch. On the pipes the variations are made through the inclusion of ‘cuttings’ or ornaments between notes following formulas taken from the pibroch tradition. ‘Cuttings’ are the only way of varying the texture and rhythmic emphasis of music played on the pipes which would otherwise have uniform attack and dynamics. The ‘Caprice’ is a loose set of nine variations on the Scottish melody Three Guid Fellows combined with an orchestral introduction and smaller interludes. Between the sixth and seventh variations a more lyrical original melody appears, which is later combined with the main theme in the elaborate coda to the movement. It is linked by the soloist to the final ‘Dance’ which also uses variation techniques, though to a lesser extent than the preceding movement. The main theme of the ‘Dance’ is based on Leslies Lilt, a melody from the seventeenth-century Skene Manuscript, which is combined later with another theme in the relative minor. After several variations of the material and abrupt changes of tempo, these melodies propel the music towards the frantic Presto coda.

from notes by Duncan Barker © 1998

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDH55343 track 4
Rhapsody: Lento
Recording date
2 September 1997
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch
Hyperion usage
  1. Mackenzie: Violin Concerto & Pibroch (CDA66975)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: March 1998
    Deletion date: November 2007
    Superseded by CDH55343
  2. Mackenzie: Violin Concerto & Pibroch (CDH55343)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: June 2009
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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