Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.

Tonight I went and saw the APO play a ‘great classics’ showcase incorporating one of my all time favourite early romantic pieces: Fingal’s Cave.

Fingal’s Cave is one of two titles given to the piece by it’s composer. The other – Hebrides Overture  – is more commonly used, but I don’t think it illustrates the overall theme of the piece as well as a title like Fingal’s Cave.

Fingal’s Cave is actually a real place too, located in (guesses please?) the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. It’s now a popular tourist destination and it’s arched roof and gaping natural interior give the place an eerie cathedral-esque echo effect.

Mendelssohn visited the cave in 1829 and was then and there inspired to sketch out what later became, after no less than four separate versions, his Hebrides Overture. 

The piece is one of the earliest examples of a concert overture, marking a distinct movement of overture composition away from the operatic overtures.

The piece, to me, is incredibly descriptive. Whenever I hear it, I can see the cave itself, the waves, sea shells and seaweed, as well as various maritime crustaceans and assorted paraphernalia.

I am always moved by the introduction of the second movement by the cellos, which is later past to the violins. (Starting at 1:43 in the recording below). And I know that this goes quite quickly but it’s always been my desire to slow it down as happens later when the motif is picked up by the solo clarinet (at 7:12).

I’m sure upon hearing this you will hear the various waves crashing, the storm, the eye of the storm and what I believe are scurrying crabs (between 4:02 and 4:23). I also swear that at one moment you can hear a seagull loosing a battle with strong winds and then eventually holding it’s own to fly away (6:18).

I could go on like this but it might spoil it for you. Hear it for yourself below.

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