The source of Prince Madoc’s Farewell was a poem from Felicia Hemans’s Welsh Melodies of 1832 which relates the story of Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, the twelfth-century prince and explorer who was reputed to have left Wales in search of new lands to the west. It has been suggested that Madog sailed with his brother Rhiryd and landed at what is now Mobile Bay in 1169. After returning to Wales he sailed away once more in 1171 and did not see his country again. The connections with Madog and the New World caught the imagination of the public at the end of the eighteenth century, particularly through John Williams’s published account of the story in 1790 and Robert Southey’s extensive poem ‘Madoc’ of 1805 which were almost certainly important influences in the production of Hemans’s poem. Stanford’s song, with its broad span and stirring harmonies, demonstrates the composer’s delight in popular, lyrical melody, whether in the form of folksong, traditional song or original composition. Such songs were also popular as vehicles of patriotic enthusiasm, a sentiment Stanford, with his own brand of Irish and British patriotism, understood and to which he responded avidly. Completed in August 1893, it was written for and dedicated to Harry Plunket Greene who sang it at a London Symphony Concert at St James’s Hall on 8 November 1893 under the baton of George Henschel.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 1999
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