Part 1: Lento sostenuto
Part 2: Allegro con fuoco
Part 3: Andante con tenerezza
Part 4: Port-a-Bial: Allegro con spirito
Part 5: Largamente maestoso
Like most of Bantock’s Celtic works the symphony makes use of Hebridean folksong—as collected by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and published between 1909 and 1924. In this instance the song is ‘Sea-Longing’ (An Ionndrainn-Mhara), and its opening lines, ‘Sore sea-longing in my heart / Blue deep Barra waves are calling’, give a sufficient clue to the unstated programme that informs the work. Though it is presented as one continuous movement, the various sections correspond to the contrasts that are found in the normal symphony. A spacious slow introduction (Lento sostenuto), in which the lower strings whisper a brief, chant-like theme, leads to a vigorous section (Allegro con fuoco) in which a bold unison theme is offset by a theme of swooning, lyrical intensity. The slow introduction returns as herald to the equivalent of a symphony’s slow movement (Andante con tenerezza) built upon the yearning Hebridean folksong. This in turn gives way to a vigorous, scherzo-like section (Allegro con spirito) which explores, with Bartókian savagery, the energetic rhythms of a Highland reel before exploding into the final section (Largamente maestoso), a full-blooded and magnificent apotheosis of the chant-like theme from the slow introduction.
The work was dedicated to the conductor Clarence Raybould (one of Bantock’s earliest pupils) and seems to have received its first performance in a BBC broadcast in 1942.
from notes by Michael Hurd © 1991