“Scottish” Symphony

By Felix Mendelssohn
Composed in 1842

On his first trip to the British Isles in 1829 Mendelssohn paid a visit to Scotland, which made a deep impression on him and inspired several future compositions. In 1842, he completed his “Scottish” Symphony (his last symphony) and dedicated it to the young Queen Victoria.

While not programmatic, the symphony is atmospheric and contains many original elements. One of its most striking features is that it is meant to be played continuously – with no break between movements – which was unusual for the time. The first movement opens with a slow introduction in the winds and violas followed by an agitated allegro based upon the opening theme. A recapitulation of the slow opening serves as a transition to the sprightly scherzo, with its alternating dance themes in the winds and strings.

The following adagio is in the style of a “song without words,” with a lyrical theme alternating with a stern foreboding one.

The last movement opens with an agitated, onrushing series of passages before transitioning to a fugue-like section and a quiet transition featuring a clarinet-bassoon duo. The movement closes with a majestic rolling theme, in the major key, full of joy and hope.