Felix Mendelssohn’s Scotland


Four overtures from Mendelssohn in a London recording from the 1950s. Fingal’s Cave, the most recognizable of them, is an actual island called Staffa in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, known for its unearthly acoustical effects and black basalt columns. The composer visited the cave, or at least sailed by it, in 1829 and finished his standalone concert overture one year later, along with his Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”) around the same time. An Anglo-Saxon warrior stands on the sleeve, wearing a pelt and a leonine face. He’s the kind of figure who might have resided in the cave, or maybe he’s the namesake of the Giant’s Causeway on the Irish coast, which geologists believe to have reached all the way to the Hebrides at some point.