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The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow


The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow illustrates a famous ballad printed in the score and reproduced below. It starts with the same rhythmic energy as Land of the Mountain and the Flood—an energy derived directly from Scottish traditional rhythmic characteristics. It then proceeds to pull large tufts from Wagner’s mane, and yet the Scottishness of the piece is never subdued. The expansive second subject shared by oboe and clarinet gradually works up to heraldic statements of the robust theme of young knighthood. But the young knight’s self-confidence is interrupted by a dark moment of hesitation implying the implacable hatred of his sweetheart’s brothers. The opening material re-asserts itself, but after such a pregnant gap it is clear that a false note has been struck and the music turns the same brilliant strident idea into a dirge. This is the dirge of epic events, rather than of an individual tragedy, and so it is that the final statement of the work is in the major key, confirming the triumph of nobility. This is not a subtle piece; but it is a strong one—as bald as the ballad tradition which it evokes with a directness of purpose that is the essence of MacCunn and which commands respect.

Late at e’en, drinking the wine,
And ere they paid the lawing,
They set a combat them between,
To fight it in the dawing.
‘What though you be my sister’s lord
We’ll cross our swords to-morrow.’
‘What though my wife your sister be,
I’ll meet ye then on Yarrow.’
‘O stay at hame, my noble lord,
O stay at hame, my marrow!
My cruel brother will you betray
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow.’
‘O fare ye weel, my ladye gaye!
O fare ye weel, my Sarah!
For I maun gae, though I ne’er return
Frae the dowie dens o’ Yarrow.’
As he gaed up the Tennie’s bank,
I wot he gaed wi’ sorrow,
Till down in a den, he spied nine armed men,
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow.
‘If I see all, ye’re nine to ane;
And that’s an unequal marrow;
Yet will I fight, while lasts my brand,
On the bonnie banks o’ Yarrow.’
Four has he hurt, and five has slain,
On the bloody braes o’ Yarrow,
Till that stubborn knight came him behind,
And ran his body through.
As she sped down yon high, high hill,
She gaed wi’ dool and sorrow,
And in the den spied ten slain men,
On the dowie banks o’ Yarrow.
She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair,
She searched his wounds all thorough.
She kissed them, till her lips grew red,
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow.
She kissed his lips, she kaimed his hair,
As aft she had dune before, O;
And there wi’ grief her beart did break
In the dowie dens o’ Yarrow.

from notes by John Purser © 1995

The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow commence avec la même énergie rythmique que dans Land of the Mountain and the Flood—une énergie qui provient directement des caractéristiques rythmiques traditionnelles écossaises. Le morceau s’empreint ensuite d’un net lyrisme wagnérien sans que le caractère écossais du morceau ne perde jamais de sa vigueur. Un long second sujet, partagé entre le hautbois et la clarinette, se développe progressivement en un ensemble d’expositions héraldiques du thème énergique du jeune chevalier. Le thème d’ouverture s’affirme de nouveau, mais après une féconde élaboration il est clair que le ton a changé, la musique transforme cette idée remarquable et pleine d’intensité en un chant funèbre. À défaut de subtilité, cette pièce se distingue par sa force, déployant la même vigueur que la ballade traditionnelle qu’elle évoque avec cette franchise qui est l’éssence même de MacCunn et qui impose le respect.

extrait des notes rédigées par John Purser © 1995
Français: Thierry Matutzu

The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow beginnt mit derselben rhythmischen Energie wie Land of the Mountain and the Flood—eine Energie, die sich von den traditionellen rhythmischen Charakteristika Schottlands ableitet. Es schneidet sich dann eine dicke Schnitte vom Laib Wagners ab, wobei das Schottische des Stückes an keiner Stelle verblaßt. Das ausgedehnte zweite Motiv, das gemeinsam von Oboe und Klarinette vorgetragen wird, arbeitet sich allmählich zu heraldischen Aussagen über das nüchterne Thema junger Ritterschaft hinauf. Das einleitende Material wird erneut bekräftigt, doch nach einer bedeutungsvollen Pause wird deutlich, daß eine falsche Note gespielt worden ist, und die Musik verwandelt dieselbe brillante und schrille Idee in einen Klagegesang. Dies ist kein subtiles, sondern ein kraftvolles Stück—so kühn wie die Balladentradition, an die es erinnert, mit einer Zielgerichtetheit, die den Komponisten MacCunn ausmacht und die Respekt verlangt.

aus dem Begleittext von John Purser © 1995
Deutsch: Cornelia Schroeder


MacCunn: Land of the mountain and the flood & other orchestral works

Track-specific metadata for CDA66815 track 2

Recording date
7 April 1995
Recording venue
Govan Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Tony Kime
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