Eighteenth Century Scottish Dances (1976) for ensemble
Duration: 18 minutes
Commissioned by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, for the Fires of London
Scoring: flute (=picc, =alto fl.); clar in A (=bass clar); violin (=viola); cello; harpsichord (=pno, = toy glock); 1 perc. (marimba, tabor, gourd, bhodran, tam-tam, glock)
This colourful sequence of six "dances", with introduction and linking interludes, allowed McQueen to make his debut at the Edinburgh International Festival where he scored a considerable success with this essentially ironic treatment of folk-like material associated with Scotland, though not necessarily with the period of the enlightenment itself.
The source material is highly varied: after the shepherd's pipe introduction, the first in the sequence proper presents a Beethoven "Ecossais", as a kind of view of Scotland from the Viennese drawing room. Next comes a pibroch (MacCrimmon Will Never Return) in which the clarinet takes on the role of highland bagpipe chanter! Then the Burns song "De'il stick the Minister" is tranformed into a Reel. The traditional song "Will ye no come back again?" is used in a Lament for the carnage at the battle of Culloden which follows. A burst of violin virtuosity characterises the Strathspey, "Rothiemurchus' Rant". This leads to a tipsy/jazzy jig on "I'll mak' ye be fain tae follow me", which finally goes into overdrive to become a wild foil to the work's prelude: a sort of 21st century Scottish Dance ending with the traditional cry of "Yeuch!" from all the players!
The dances have also been heard in Glasgow and Stockholm.
MP3 audio extract (1'57"):
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