November 30, 2015 at 10:00 am

N.B.: This post isn’t about freedom. Or Braveheart (although I do love the music from the movie …)

Today is St. Andrew’s Day, the national day of Scotland (hence, Braveheart … and “freedom!” But enough about that.)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) visited Scotland in 1829. The trip had a profound effect on him; not only did he compose his famous Hebrides Overture (also known as “Fingal’s Cave”), he began work on the Scottish Symphony, which was not completed until thirteen years after his trip. When it was first performed, it did not bear the name “Scottish” – it was merely “Symphony No. 3” – but after Mendelssohn died, some of his letters revealed that the wild Scottish landscape was the inspiration for the piece, and the name has stuck ever since. He specifically describes a marvelously gothic scene from the ruins of Holyrood Chapel:

“In the deep twilight we went today to the palace were Queen Mary lived and loved…The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my ‘Scottish’ Symphony.”
~R. Larry Todd, ‘Mendelssohn’, in D. Kern Holoman (ed.), The Nineteenth-Century Symphony (New York: Schirmer, 1997), pp. 78–107

By the way (back to Braveheart … haha), if you want an interesting read, check out the Wikipedia article on Braveheart – especially the sections “Release and Reception” and “Historical Inaccuracy.”