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Burns 'Second Scotch Rhapsody', Op 24

c1881; dedicated to Madame Jessie Hillebrand

Mackenzie dedicated his Opus 24, Burns – Second Scotch Rhapsody, to Madame Jessie Hillebrand (née Taylor) in 1881. He met her through Hans von Bülow, and the Mackenzies lodged in the same building in Florence. Founder of the Cherubini Society, she was herself a fine pianist and had in her earlier days given much assistance to the then struggling Wagner, whose later insinuations concerning her Mackenzie and others most strenuously denied. Florence was the place to which he fled from London whenever he could. Writing to Professor Blackie in 1886, and again in 1889, he expresses his frustration at the conflict between his staggeringly onerous work-load and his composition:

London, with its ‘Treiben’ [doings] (and above all its interruptiveously interested people of all kinds) is no place for a composer as I find out now. Your London is a horrid hammer for driving out poetry that, I long since, discovered.

In fact J S Blackie dedicated his book Scottish Song to the much younger Mackenzie, whose own knowledge of Scottish song must have been unrivalled. Both he and his father had not only played and arranged large quantities of Scottish melodies and texts, but they had themselves contributed original tunes to the repertoire—tunes played to this day. Mackenzie, like Blackie, was a thoroughgoing nationalist in these matters and reveals it strongly, writing to Blackie in acknowledgement of the dedication of the book:

I do hope from time to time to add a little contribution to Scotch Music, I mean in this popular way and apart from the more elaborate work to which, of course, I am devoted.

But Mackenzie was also aware of the dangers of uncritical nationalism and wrote in the same letter of 1889:

My reticence in giving too much national music of my own is chiefly due to an experience which has reached most thinking musicians, viz: that a composer may in it, only too easily become a mere mannerist. Some of the Norwegians and Swedes have taught us this.

Did Mackenzie have Grieg in mind? The two men had met and, after hearing Mackenzie’s Burns Rhapsody, Grieg’s eagerness to identify with his Scottish ancestry (of which he was extremely proud) prompted him to assert an affinity between Norwegian and Scottish traditional music which Mackenzie was not willing to share.

However, there can be few more obviously nationalistic works than the Burns – Second Scotch Rhapsody, not only because it honours the national poet of Scotland, but because of its opening theme. Burns knew the tune as Bruce’s March to the great victory in 1314 at Bannockburn which established the Scottish nation as truly independent of England. Burns set new words to it, burning with the zeal of a post-French-Revolutionary vision. He will have known that this same tune piped Joan of Arc, with her substantially Scottish army, up to the gates of Orleans, opened to her by its Scottish Bishop Kirkpatrick. The tune is still played at Orleans on Joan of Arc Day, so it is heavy with the symbolism of the independence of two of the great nations of Europe, the enemy being, in both cases, England. But it was the words that Burns gave it that have immortalized it as Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled, and in choosing to celebrate Burns with this piece Mackenzie knew full well what it meant to the poet and to the nation. He quotes the opening lines on the score:

Scots! wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots! whom Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!

From all this one might expect a work of military triumphalism, but Mackenzie was made of subtler stuff. The latent power is there, but it is constantly tempered by an equally Scottish characteristic—that of pawky humour—in a counter-melody drawn from the main theme.

The central section is based on a beautiful tune collected by Burns himself and to which he added bitterly reflective verses:

She’s faire and fause that causes my smart,
I lo’ed her mickle and lang:
She’s broken her vow, she’s broken my heart,
And I may e’en gae hang.

Mackenzie presents the tune with lovely harmonies, but wisely never intrudes on the melody itself. Even the second statement is embellished only by a simple commentary on the violins, and the section ends in wistful simplicity.

The tune for the final Vivace was an old one known as Salt Fish and Dumplings. Burns wrote new words, quoted, as are the other poems, on the score:

I coft a stane o’ haslock woo’ [I bought a stone of wool from the sheep’s neck]
To mak a coat to Johnny o’t:
For Johnny is my only jo, [love]
I lo’e him best of ony yet …
The cardin’ o’t, the spinnin’ o’t,
The warpin’ o’t, the winnin’ o’t’;
When ilka ell cost me a groat, [When each length cost me a groat]
The tailor staw the linin’ o’t. [stole]

The poem goes on to praise Johnny despite his old age. Whether Mackenzie’s choice of quotations had any special meaning for Jessie Hillebrand is not known, but his treatment of The cardin’ o’t is as straightforward and sportive as the tune itself.

from notes by John Purser © 1995

J. S. Blackie dédia son livre intitulé Scottish Song à Mackenzie, qui à l’époque était beaucoup plus jeune, et dont la connaissance des chants écossais devait être insurpassable. Son père ainsi que lui-même avaient non seulement joué et arrangé une quantité énorme de mélodies et textes écossais, mais avaient eux-mêmes composé des mélodies faisant partie du répertoire—et qui sont encore jouées de nos jours.

Peu d’œuvres ne sont plus manifestes dans leur nationalisme que Burns – Second Scotch Rhapsody, non seulement parce qu’elle rend hommage au poète national de l’Écosse, mais aussi à cause de son thème d’ouverture. Burns connaissait la mélodie comme étant celle de la Marche de Bruce, conduisant à la grande victoire de 1314 à Bannockburn, qui établit l’Écosse comme nation indépendante de l’Angleterre. Burns ajouta un nouveau texte à la mélodie, avec une vision brûlant du même zèle que celui que l’on aurait pu trouver après la Révolution Française. Il savait aussi que cette même mélodie accompagna Jeanne d’Arc et sa grande armée écossaise vers les portes d’Orléans, ouvertes pour elle par l’archevêque écossais du lieu, Kirkpatrick. La mélodie est encore jouée à Orléans lors de la Fête de Jeanne d’Arc, et contient des symboles rattachés à l’indépendance des deux grandes nations de l’Europe, ayant comme ennemi commun l’Angleterre.

En conséquence, on pourrait s’attendre à une œuvre militaire triomphante, mais Mackenzie était un être qui possédait plus de subtilité. Le pouvoir latent peut être ressenti dans l’œuvre, mais il est constamment retenu par un trait tout autant écossais, celui de l’humour quelque peu noir de la contre-mélodie tirée du thème principal.

extrait des notes rédigées par John Purser © 1995
Français: Isabelle Dubois

J S Blackie widmete sein Buch Schottische Lieder dem weitaus jüngeren Mackenzie, dessen eigene Kenntnis des schottischen Liedguts unübertroffen gewesen sein muß. Sowohl er als auch sein Vater hatten nicht nur große Mengen schottischer Weisen und Texte gespielt und arrangiert, sondern hatten selbst originale Melodien zum Repertoire beigetragen—Melodien, die bis heute gespielt werden.

Es wird nur wenige Werke geben, die offensichtlicher nationalistisch sind als Burns—Zweite Schottische Rhapsodie. Diese wirkt teils so, weil sie den nationalen Dichter Schottlands ehrt, teils wegen ihres Eingangsthemas. Burns kannte die Melodie als „Bruces Marsch“ zum großen Sieg von Bannockburn im Jahre 1314, welcher der schottischen Nation wahre Unabhängigkeit von England verschaffte. Burns verlieh ihm neue Worte, die vom Eifer einer durch die französische Revolution angeregten Vision durchdrungen waren. Ihm wird bekannt gewesen sein, daß diese Dudelsackmelodie Jeanne d’Arc mit ihrer im wesentlichen schottischen Armee bis zu den Toren von Orleans geleitete, die ihr der schottische Bischof Kirkpatrick öffnete. Die Melodie wird noch immer am Festtage der heiligen Johanna gespielt und ist daher von der Symbolik der Unabhängigkeit zwei großer europäischer Nationen durchdrungen, deren Feind in beiden Fällen England war.

All dies ließe auf ein Werk schließen, das im militärischen Triumph schwelgt, aber Mackenzie war raffinierter. Zwar ist verborgene Kraft spürbar, doch wird sie dauernd durch ein gleichermaßen schottisches Charakteristikum gemäßigt, nämlich den trockenen Humor einer aus dem Hauptthema gezogenen Gegenmelodie.

aus dem Begleittext von John Purser © 1995
Deutsch: Angelika Malbert


Mackenzie: Orchestral Music


Movement 1: Scots! Wha hae wi' Wallace bled
Movement 2: She's faire and fause
Movement 3: I coft a stane o' haslock woo'

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