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Program Notes

Four Scottish Dances


Malcolm Arnold, composer

The dances of Four Scottish Dances were composed by Malcolm Arnold early in 1957, and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival. All are based on original melodies except one, the melody of which was composed by Robert Burns.

The first dance is in the style of a slow strathsprey—a slow Scottish dance in 4/4 meter—with many dotted notes, frequently in the inverted (reversed) arrangement of the “Scottish Snap.” The name was derived from the Strath valley of Sprey.

The second, a lively reel, begins in the key of E-flat and rises a semitone (half step) each time it is played until the bassoon plays it, at a greatly reduced speed, in the key of G. The final statement of the dance is at the original speed in the home key of E-flat.

The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean song, and attempts to give the impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides.

The last dance is a lively fling, originally scored to make a great deal of use of the open-string pitches of the violin.

—Band Music Notes third edition, Norman Smith and Albert Stoutamire


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