No 1: On a noisy polemic Below thir stanes lie Jamie's banes
No 2: On the death of Robert Ruisseaux Now Robin likes in his last lair
No 3: On a henpecked country squire As father Adam first was fool'd
No 4: On a lady famed for her caprice Here lies, now a prey to insulting neglect
No 5: Andrew Turner In seventeen hunder' and forty nine
‘On a noisy polemic’ is enhanced by a choral accompaniment to the folksong-like melody. Vocal glissandi and shouted speech wittily emphasize the word ‘bitch’, and more humour occurs at the words ‘O Death, it’s my opinion’ where, to the marking Andante religioso, the phrase is set to a mocking plagal cadence. In ‘On the death of Robert Ruisseaux’ Maw pairs the voices (latterly as a stark two-part canon) to create a sombre elegy.
With its swift pace and gradual crescendo, ‘On a henpecked country squire’ gives a vivid portrayal of the husband literally nagged to death. Altos and sopranos chase each other in imitation, then basses and tenors follow suit. The ‘lady famed for her caprice’ finds her ephemeral character evoked through the word-painting of the word ‘butterfly’; and equally her want of ‘goodness’ as the second syllable of the word lands on a biting dissonance.
Clearly Burns did not like the eponymous ‘Andrew Turner’! The epigram recounts that the Devil planned to ‘mak’ a swine’, but changing his mind he ‘shaped it something like a man / And ca’d it Andrew Turner’. Maw tells the tale to a rollicking tune with tattoo-like accompaniment.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2007