Muir Mathieson’s 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 only recording of this work was issued on The Land of the Mountain and the Flood - ASV CD WHL 2123 in 1999. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is conducted by John Wilson. The Suite has been uploaded to YouTube.