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Walter Scott’s poem, Lay of the Last Minstrel, had been written for a full 82 years when they moved the Scottish composer Hamish MacCunn to compose this music in 1887.
‘O Caledonia! stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood.’
Stern, wild, yet beautifully lyrical: the simple tune and the lush orchestra paint a picture of the sprawling Scottish landscape in this Romantic piece by MacCunn.
As a boy of eight, MacCunn had been taken to his first season of concerts, one of the famous August Manns series at Crystal Palace in London. So it was apt that, as a prodigious 19-year-old, he should have gone back there to hear the premiere performance of his major new work.
Although the music critic George Bernard Shaw was withering in his review – attacking the perceived formulaic nature of its middle section – The Land of the Mountain and the Flood has stood the test of time, remaining by far the composer’s most popular work. Sadly, MacCunn, who lived in London, rather than the beloved Scottish countryside of his music, died from an illness at the tragically young age of 48.