BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for March takes us to Scotland in pursuit of two Scottish-born piano virtuosi whose compositions have languished beneath the highland mists for too long. Born prematurely as a result of a steamboat collision on the Clyde, Frederic Lamond lived a short walk from Eugen d’Albert in Glasgow. The two became Liszt pupils and their musical abilities were admired by Richard Strauss, Hans von Bülow and Johannes Brahms.
Lamond’s Symphony in A major, his only symphony, was begun in 1885 – the composer was just twenty-one – and published in 1893. In four movements, a sense of generous assurance flows through this work which sits comfortably between Beethoven, looking backward, and Mahler in the future. Perhaps one should think of Brahms, yet Lamond adds a refreshing breath of Scottish air into an otherwise-Germanic climate.
The Overture from the Scottish Highlands tells the story of one Quentin Durward, a stalwart of Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguard. His Burgundian adventures betray a sense of homesickness; Scottish themes and droned bass lines prevail. Sword Dance, taken from Lamond’s opera A life in the Scottish Highlands, presents a scene of bucolic exuberance, fancy footwork and Scotch-snap rhythms combining in a work of irresistible panache.
The disc opens with Eugen d’Albert’s Overture to Esther. The Biblical Esther had little time for honour, or even religion come to that, and d’Albert’s overture similarly throw caution to the wind, before eventually she, and he, are won back to the arms of King Ahasuerus.