No 1: Cuchullan's Lament
No 2: Kishmul's Galley
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