Hyperion Records

From the Scottish Highlands
1905/7; full score dated 20 March 1907

'Coles: Music from Behind the lines' (CDH55464)
Coles: Music from Behind the lines
MP3 £4.00FLAC £4.00ALAC £4.00Buy by post £4.40 CDH55464  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
Movement 1: Prelude: Presto scherzoso – Allegro maestoso
Track 8 on CDH55464 [3'10] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Movement 2: Idyll 'Love scene': Larghetto
Track 9 on CDH55464 [3'11] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Movement 3: Lament: Adagio non troppo e ben marcato
Track 10 on CDH55464 [6'11] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I

From the Scottish Highlands
From the Scottish Highlands occupied Coles for much of the time between 1905 and 1907 when he evidently contem­plated several different versions of the work, including one for piano and string orchestra. The subtitle ‘Romantic Suite’ which can be found on an earlier version of the Prelude (signed and dated by the composer in 1906) indicates that Coles had in mind those late nineteenth-century seminal paradigms of the genre by mainstream figures such as Bizet, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and others. Whether it was inspired purely by land­scape or by the romantic evocations of literature, notably of Walter Scott, is unclear. The full score of the suite From the Scottish Highlands is dated 20 March 1907 and also bears the address where the manuscript was completed, 32 Gower Place, London, the home of the young Coles during the time of his Cherubini Composition Scholarship at the London College of Music.

The first movement, ‘Prelude’, begins with a short scherzo in D minor which has a Mendelssohnian felicity in its light­weight scoring. This material appears to presage a movement of serious symphonic proportions, but it is abruptly cut short by the interjection of a ternary ‘dance’ movement in F major in which a central bolero-like dance is flanked by paragraphs featuring a simple, uncomplicated melody. This music has more in common with those lighter ‘salon’ scores of Elgar’s orches­tral miniatures and with Holst’s Suite de ballet.

The ‘Idyll’, subtitled ‘Love scene’, is unabashedly romantic, especially in the more voluptuous central section where the precedents of his late nineteenth-century forebears (notably Bruch and Tchaikovsky) are clearly evident. However, the thematic content of the outer sections with its pentatonic, pseudo-Scottish folksong, owes more to the Scottish romantic tradition of Mackenzie and MacCunn whose rhapsodies and suites still enjoyed a vogue among concert promoters and audiences during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. MacCunn’s Highland Memories of 1896, in particular, seem a likely precedent. The unconventional tonal behaviour of the ‘Idyll’—though in A major it constantly gravitates to the dominant on which it ends somewhat cryptically—suggests, albeit tentatively, that the inexperienced Coles was showing signs of expanding his stylistic parameters. In the final ‘Lament’, a dark, brooding essay in B minor and by far the most contem­porary of the three movements, he shows a greater willingness to experiment with more modern developments of modality and chromaticism. These tendencies are powerfully evident in the opening section and its more forceful recapitulation, though for the ‘trio’, a tender waltz, Coles reverts to a more overtly nineteenth-century language.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2002

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