Waves and spatial sound

In our series “Nature in Music”, Georg Rudiger listens a little more closely: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s concert overture “The Hebrides” op. 26

Travelling broadens the mind. And leaves lasting impressions of nature, as can be heard in Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s music. In the “Italian Symphony”, which featured in the opening concert of Klosters Music last year, the composer took us to the land where the lemons bloom. But Scotland was also one of his travel destinations – the “Scottish Symphony” conveys this. The concert overture “The Hebrides”, which can be experienced this summer in the concert on 5 August with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Tarmo Peltokoski, is also inspired by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s journey to England and Scotland in 1829. On several boat trips to the largely uninhabited Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland, he resolutely experienced the sea with its storms and waves.

The falling main theme of the “Hebrides” overture traces a wave motion in its many repetitions right at the beginning. The following semiquavers in the strings also reflect the ups and downs of the waves. A visit to Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa particularly impressed the composer. The first score of this concert overture was published in 1835 under the title “Fingal’s Cave”. An impression of the large space of this legendary basalt cave and its special acoustics is given at the beginning of the development. Here, three instrumental groups interact with each other at varying volumes: a fanfare in the woodwinds played fortissimo is answered by a very softly played wave motif in the low strings. A shimmering in the violins connects the different elements. The sound becomes a spatial experience. Time stands still.