Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song was written in New York and London between February and October 2004, in response to a commission from the Peter Moores Foundation on behalf of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in memory of his grandmother Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The first performance was given at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in March 2006 by Paul Watkins, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by David Parry. In recognition of the Queen Mother's Scottish origins, the work is based on a Scottish folksong, 'Ca' the yowes to the knowes' (Call the ewes to the knolls) - a melody previously paraphrased by Tippett in his First Piano Sonata and Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The theme is presented at the start of the work, then as in Bennett's earlier set of 'Reflections' treated freely in a continuous sequence of self-contained musical paragraphs. An Arioso in a flowing 5/8 time, with an increasingly virtuosic solo part including two short cadenzas, is followed by a scherzo-like Vivo with a middle section in waltz time. Another cadenza winds down into an Interlude beginning with a quintet of violas, cellos and double-bass from within the orchestra, and continuing with all the orchestral strings muted beneath the un-muted and increasingly rhapsodic soloist. The next section begins Con brio, but its jaunty rhythms alternate with much smoother episodes, and a resonant orchestral passage ushers in the soloist's most substantial and most forceful cadenza. The final section is marked Alia sarabanda, that is in the slow triple-time dance rhythm of the sarabande; but the metre changes to 4/4 as the textures thin out for a valedictory statement of the melody in its simplest form.
© 2006 Anthony Burton