The music of Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916) : a critical study
Apart from a single study of Jeanie Deans, MacCunn's music has, to date, never received a detailed examination. This thesis aims to provide a contextual basis for, and a stylistic analysis of, his major works, and so establish informed criteria by which a truer assessment of MacCunn's significance may be made, challenging the sovereignty of Land of the Mountain and the Flood in the public's reckoning of his compositions and hence revealing it to be not an isolated peak but one summit among many. Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916) grew up in Greenock on the west coast of Scotland before removing to London at the tender age of 15 to further his musical studies at the Royal College of Music. His assimilation of a robust orchestral technique was rapid and before he reached his twentieth birthday he had already tasted the pleasures of public approbation. Thereafter, a sequence of orchestral works, cantatas, songs and two grand operas with a pronounced Scottish character appeared in the late eighties and nineties. It is this period which is the focus of the study, but later works dating from MacCunn's time conducting West End shows are also discussed. Through a generic survey of his output, the thesis locates the composer's works within a historical and biographical framework, isolating characteristic traits both novel and derived from the earlier Nineteenth Century inheritance, and evaluating his position as a composer of his time and afterwards. In particular his strengths and penchants as a composer have been identified with special emphasis on the composer’s bias for dramatic or narrative music, amply demonstrated in his overtures, cantatas and, above all, his two operas Jeanie Deans and Diarmid. To complement the chapters on MacCunn's musical works, an opening biographical chapter, a comprehensive catalogue, a family tree, iconography and bibliography have been provided. Throughout the thesis, reference has been made to primary sources held in Glasgow and other libraries throughout Britain and the United States, in an attempt to arrive at as complete a picture of MacCunn as possible.