On record – Hail Caledonia: Scotland In Music (City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra / Iain Sutherland) (Somm Recordings)

hail-caledonia

Trad. arr. Sutherland The Black Bear Salute
Docker Abbey Craig (1974)
Tomlinson Cumberland Square (1960)
Coates The Three Elizabeths – Elizabeth of Glamis (1944)
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ‘Scottish’ – Vivace non troppo (1842). Blake Take the High Road (1980)
MacCunn (arr. Sutherland) Sutherland’s Law (1886/1973)
Docker Faery Dance Reel (1958)
Sutherland Three Scottish Castles (1966)
MacKenzie (arr. composer) Benedictus, Op. 37 No. 3 (1888/1895)
Bantock Two Heroic Ballads – Kishmul’s Galley (1944)
Arnold Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59 (1957)
Williamson (arr. Sutherland) Flower of Scotland (1967)
Trad. arr. Sutherland Amazing Grace
Whyte Donald of the Burthens – Devil’s Finale/Reel o’ Tulloch (1951)

David Wotherspoon, Iain MacDonald (bagpipes), City of Glasgow Pipe Band, City of Glasgow Chorus, City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra / Iain Sutherland

SOMM Ariadne 5014 [79’32”]

Digital Remastering Paul Arden-Taylor

Live performances at Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow in 1995 and 1996

Written by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

SOMM releases via its Ariadne imprint this compilation of shorter pieces and arrangements which, between them, afford a wide-ranging and not at all hackneyed overview of ‘Scotland in Music’, realized with great flair by Iain Sutherland and the City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra.

What’s the music like?

Whether or not the fastest regimental march in the British army, The Black Bear Salute duly launches proceedings with a gusto continued by Robert Docker’s breezy take on battle-song Scots Wha Hae in Abbey Craig. Ernest Tomlinson furthers the jollity with his amalgam of traditional Borders tunes in Cumberland Square, to which the quiet rapture of Eric Coates’s ‘Elizabeth of Glamis’ (central panel of The Three Elizabeths triptych) provides an admirable foil. The scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony makes for an ideal interlude in its rhythmic vivacity and formal ingenuity, then come pieces made famous through association with television series – Arthur Blake’s atmospheric theme-tune for the soap drama Take the High Road and the corresponding sequence for crime drama Sutherland’s Law, derived from Hamish MacCunn’s overture Land of the Mountain and the Flood as has regained its place in the concert hall. Docker’s contribution to the light-music repertoire is typified by his Faery Dance Reel, a lively and infectious medley of traditional tunes that wears its heritage lightly.

Iain Sutherland displays his compositional skills (with respective nods to Arnold and Coates) in Three Scottish Castles with its evocative tribute to those of Stirling, Dunvegan (Skye) and Edinburgh. Next comes a contrasting brace of pieces – the burnished eloquence of Alexander MacKenzie’s Benedictus here followed by the unfailing extroversion of Kishmul’s Galley by Granville Bantock, whose immersion in all things Scottish was enduring. Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances are then given a memorable reading which points up the trenchant gait of ‘Strathspey’ or the latterly inebriated progress of ‘Reel’, before ‘Hebrides’ casts a suitably rapturous spell that is summarily curtailed with the headlong energy of ‘Highland Fling’. One half of influential folk duo The Corries, Roy Williamson created his own standard in Flower of Scotland, here given an opulent arrangement comparable to that of the ubiquitous Amazing Grace – after which, the closing section from the ballet Donald of the Burthens by Ian Whyte (founder conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) makes for a scintillating finale.

Does it all work?

Yes. Compilations such as this are often no more than the sum of their parts, however enticing those parts may be, but Hail Caledonia is one to sample at leisure as well as worth playing at a single sitting. It helps when the City of Glasgow Philharmonic renders all these pieces with alacrity and enthusiasm, aided by being captured on various live occasions, and owing in no small part to its founder Iain Sutherland. A familiar radio presence over several decades, he brings an authority to music whose outward flair is not without its corresponding substance.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. The remastered sound lacks nothing in realism or immediacy, while there are detailed and informative notes by composer, critic (and no doubt ecosophile) Robert Matthew-Walker. Any listeners who are looking to add such a compilation to their collections need not hesitate.

Listen & Buy

You can discover more about this release and listen to clips at the SOMM Recordings website, where you can also purchase the recording.

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