Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Muir Mathieson: Suite – From the Grampians

A few days ago I noted an excellent resume of the life and works of Muir Mathieson (1911-1973) on these pages. In this article his achievements as a film music composer and director are justly praised by its author. Yet Mathieson also wrote ‘concert’ music.
The suite From the Grampians was written in 1961 and celebrates the Scottish landscape that the composer knew and loved so well. During his time in London at the Royal College of Music and later at the film studios he would often head north to Stirlingshire and enjoy the atmosphere and scenery of the ‘Gateway to the Highlands.’ From the ramparts of the mighty castle at Stirling a wide panorama of Scottish hills and mountains reveals itself to the viewer. In the far distance can be seen the southernmost outliers of the great Grampian Range.
Mathieson’s Suite paints an evocative, if slightly sentimental, view of the Highlands. The opening movement is a stirring march- Loch Laggan. This music was originally the ‘start of broadcast’ music for programmes on Grampian TV. The second movement is dedicated to the composer’s daughter, Shuna and is called an Island Song. Now the Isle of Shuna is nowhere near Stirling or the Grampians – but it was special to Mathieson because that was his daughter’s name. And besides it is a beautiful miniature tone poem of the misty North. The third is a little scherzo that “sparkles and shimmers” and musically describes a wee stream in Glengarry. The final movement is a Highlan’ romp – or is it reel? The composer gives it the title - The Spital of Glenshee – a Strathspey and Reel. It is a fitting conclusion to this imaginative work.
This Suite could be defined as ‘filmy’ music – yet the truth is that it is a near perfect and often quite impressionistic ‘pen-sketch’ of the Highlands of Scotland composed by one who loved these scenes and sorely missed them when he was working afar.
The Land of the Mountain and the Flood - ASV CD WHL 2123

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