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Anticipations of Scotland 'A grand fantasia', Op 75  

Anticipations of Scotland 'A grand fantasia', Op 75
Anticipations of Scotland: A Grand Fantasia, Op 75, was first performed in Edinburgh on 2 January 1828, and published in London shortly afterwards. The title was honest: Moscheles had never visited Scotland when he composed the work, but he was conscious of the hugely popular romantic cultivation of Scottish songs. They had been collected by enterprising Scottish publishers and then, for seventy years at least, introduced as themes in ‘classical’ works, first by Scottish, then English, and finally continental composers. The contrast between the artful simplicity of the tunes and the elaboration of their treatment presented a challenge to composers, who could be sure of making easy money in the process, and sometimes allowed good taste to give way to their desire to dazzle their hearers.

There was no set form for such pieces; indeed, as in this case, they could begin in one key and end in another. People expected a slow introduction, a set of variations, and a fast winding-up at the finish, but the rest was up to the composer’s whim. Moscheles begins with a quiet orchestral prelude; in the ornate piano section that follows, dotted rhythms of a vaguely Scottish character are prominent. Then, still in the opening key of B flat, the piano gently states the first explicitly Scottish tune, ‘Kelvin Grove’. A variation follows, with the tune begun by the string basses and passed around the orchestra as the piano develops its own motive. After an orchestral interlude the piano begins a second, more animated variation. A coda follows, then a modulation to D major, to be the home key from now on. The nostalgic song ‘Auld Robin Gray’ is heard; the piano’s development of the melody becomes increasingly ornate, finally dissolving into a free cadenza. Then a forceful beat begins, suggesting distant marching soldiers, and leads directly into ‘Lord Moira’s Strathspey’. Moscheles may not have known that Lord Moira (1754–1826) had been a popular commander-in-chief in Scotland, and then, as Marquis of Hastings, Governor-General of India. A strathspey is a slow dance similar to a reel, with a ‘low strain’ of four bars (repeated) followed by a ‘high strain’ (also repeated). Rather than variations, Moscheles follows this tune with development, leading through various keys and including a triumphant orchestral rendering of the tune. Over the drumbeat rhythm ‘Auld Robin Gray’ reappears; then, after a pause on the dominant, a rapid version of ‘Kelvin Grove’ on the piano starts the brief, brilliant finale.

from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2002

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