Hyperion Records

Two Heroic Ballads
composer
No 1: 19 November 1944; No 2: 24 November 1944

Recordings
'Bantock: Orchestral Music' (CDS44281/6)
Bantock: Orchestral Music
MP3 £30.00FLAC £30.00ALAC £30.00Buy by post £33.00 CDS44281/6  6CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Bantock: Pagan Symphony' (CDA66630)
Bantock: Pagan Symphony
MP3 £4.00FLAC £4.00ALAC £4.00Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66630  Archive Service; also available on CDS44281/6   Download currently discounted
Details
No 1: Cuchullan's Lament
Track 12 on CDA66630 [3'52] Archive Service; also available on CDS44281/6
Track 12 on CDS44281/6 CD2 [3'52] 6CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
No 2: Kishmul's Galley
Track 13 on CDA66630 [4'26] Archive Service; also available on CDS44281/6
Track 13 on CDS44281/6 CD2 [4'26] 6CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Two Heroic Ballads
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Throughout his career Bantock was fascinated by Celtic mythology. The publication of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's collections of Songs of the Hebrides focused his interest and provided thematic fuel for its musical expression. The two-act opera The Seal Woman (1924), the Hebridean Symphony (1913), and the Celtic Symphony (1940) are the most powerful and sustained expressions of this fruitful obsession. But there are lesser examples, and the Heroic Ballads, completed on 19 and 24 November 1944, respectively, are two of them. Both are built on songs from the Kennedy-Fraser collections. ‘Cuchullan’s Lament for his Son’ is to be found in Volume 2 (1917), as noted down by Kenneth Macleod from the singer Duncan Maclellan; and ‘Kishmul’s Galley’ in Volume 1 (1909), as collected by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser from the singing of Mary Macdonald on the island of Mingulay, Outer Hebrides.

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

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