Four Scottish Dances

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Four Scottish Dances (Op.59) is an orchestral set of light music pieces composed by Malcolm Arnold in 1957 for the BBC Light Music Festival.

The Dances[edit]

Arnold's set, or suite, consists of four dances inspired by, although not based on, Scottish country folk tunes and dances. Although the individual dances are not titled, each is denoted by a separate tempo or style marking.

The composer's notations in the score,[1] including his metronome indications (M.M.), are:

  • I. Pesante (♩ = 104)
  • II. Vivace (♩ = 160)
  • III. Allegretto (♩ = 96)
  • IV. Con brio (♩ = 144)

While Arnold did not title the four pieces individually, his music publisher (Novello & Co) has provided notes,[2] which are often employed by annotators for orchestral and concert programs; the first dance, Novello observes, is "in the style of a strathspey"; the second, a "lively reel." The song-like and graceful third dance evokes "a calm summer's day in the Hebrides"; while the last is "a lively fling."[3]

The dances are collectively intended to evoke Scotland, and utilize timbres intended to imitate bagpipes, as well as musical devices such as reel and Scotch snap rhythms; the composer also employs comic elements, such as a "tipsy" middle section in the second dance, in which the ensemble abruptly slows from a lively vivace to meno mosso (quarter note = 112), whereupon a single bassoon plays a plodding solo marked by upward and downward slides, or glissandi, as well as staggering, syncopated rhythms. (Beethoven employs a solo bassoon for somewhat similar comic effect in the rustic third-movement scherzo — "Merry Gathering of Country Folk" — of his Pastoral Symphony.)

The first performance was given at the Royal Festival Hall on 8 June 1957 with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by the composer.


Selected commercial recordings[edit]

Of John Paynter's wind band arrangement[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold, Malcolm. Four Scottish Dances. Scores on Demand, Novello & Co. Limited. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  2. ^ Music Sales Classical (n.d.). Programme Note: Malcolm Arnold Four Scottish Dances (for orchestra) (1957). Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  3. ^ Foothill Symphonic Winds (n.d.). Music Program Notes: Malcolm Arnold. Retrieved October 22, 2015.

External links[edit]