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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.

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MP3 audio extract (1'57"):
Pibroch

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