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Sir William Wallace 'Symphonic Poem No 5'

1905; marking the 600th anniversary of the death of William Wallace on 23 August; first performed under Sir Henry Wood at the Queen's Hall Promenade Concerts on 19 September 1905

23 August 1905 was the 600th anniversary of the death of the great Scottish patriot and freedom fighter William Wallace. His story has been the inspiration of innumerable poems, novels, songs and orchestral works, and in the film Braveheart has joined the long list of epic romances of the silver screen.

Robert Burns was no less affected by the legend than others. His verses set to the old Scotch marching tune of Hey Tutti Tatti open famously with the words, ‘Scots wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled …’. That tune has led Scottish troops, both regular and mercenary, to battle in every corner of the globe; it led Joan of Arc to the gates of Orléans and beyond; it has established itself as one of the world’s most powerful musical and poetic icons; but its association with William Wallace is entirely due to Burns who recognized its appropriateness to a theme dear to his heart.

For Wallace’s namesake, the composer William Wallace, the anniversary was an opportunity of national importance, not to be missed. He rose to the occasion with Sir William Wallace, a work of powerful celebration, first performed under Sir Henry Wood on 19 September at the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts.

It is probably deliberate on the composer’s part that there remains something unsaid at the end of the piece. In 1905 there was little sign of a Scottish National movement, and any reference to Wallace’s final end would have been less that celebratory anyway—Wallace was the architect of his nation’s freedom but, like Moses, he did not live to enter into his promised land. By his own people he was betrayed into the hands of the English who executed and dismembered him, displaying his mutilated parts and making up in thoroughness what they lacked in chivalry.

But the significance of the date and the coincidence of the name could not be denied. The music is splendidly direct, as befits the celebration of a great military hero. The main theme is derived from ‘Scots wha’ hae’; but the tune only emerges overtly at the end, Wallace himself pointing out that this was a reversal of the usual form. There is no programme to the work, which falls into four sections, but the brooding opening has pre-echoes of the main theme, and it seems as though the awareness of a national identity is slowly emerging, mirrored musically by the use of pentatonic motifs.

from notes by John Purser © 1996

Le 23 août 1905 correspondit au six centième anniversaire de la mort du grand patriote écossais et combattant pour la liberté William Wallace. Son histoire, qui a inspiré d’innombrables poèmes, romans, chansons et œuvres orchestrales, a également rejoint la longue liste des romans épiques du grand écran, avec le film Braveheart. Pour le compositeur homonyme du héros, cet anniversaire était une opportunité d’importance nationale à ne pas manquer. Il se montra à la hauteur de l’événement avec Sir William Wallace, une œuvre puissamment commémorative, dont la première eut lieu le 19 septembre, lors des Promenade Concerts du Queen’s Hall, sous la direction de Sir Henry Wood.

extrait des notes rédigées par John Purser © 1996
Français: Hypérion

Der 23. August 1905 war der 600. Todestag des großen schottischen Patrioten und Freiheitskämpfer William Wallace. Seine Lebensgeschichte diente als Inspiration für unzählige Gedichte, Romane, Lieder und Orchesterwerke. Mit dem Film Braveheart hat sie nun auch einen Platz auf der langen Liste der romantischen Leinwandepen. Für Wallaces Namensvetter, den Komponisten William Wallace, war dieses Jubiläum eine Gelegenheit von nationaler Bedeutung, die es nicht zu versäumen galt. Wallace zeigte sich der Lage gewachsen und schuf Sir William Wallace, ein Werk von nachdrücklicher Verherrlichung, das am 19. September unter der Leitung von Sir Henry Wood bei den Queen’s-Hall-Promenadenkonzerten uraufgeführt wurde.

aus dem Begleittext von John Purser © 1996
Deutsch: Anke Vogelhuber


Wallace: Symphonic Poems

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