Tam O'Shanter Overture

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The Tam o' Shanter Overture, Op. 51 by Malcolm Arnold was completed in March 1955.

The overture is a piece of programme music based on the famous poem by Robert Burns.

The work was first performed at the BBC Proms on 17 August 1955, with the composer conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Two months later he supervised the first recording of the work by the Philharmonia Orchestra under his assistant conductor, John Hollingsworth.

Despite his many accomplishments in the musical realm, Malcolm Arnold was known for being a drunkard and rather promiscuous, which perhaps was the greatest inspiration for the Tam O’Shanter Overture. The piece is based on an epic poem by Robert Burns which tells of a farmer and drunkard by the name of Tam O’Shanter, a Scotsman, who gets intoxicated with friends in a local tavern while his angry wife waits for him at home. Within the piece, his drunkenness is portrayed by the trombone solo at the very beginning. On his way back, he stumbles into the Kirk-Alloway (a church) filled with witches and goblins dancing about. Terrified, Tam scurries away on his horse while being chased by the ghouls. A Scottish theme and Tam's drunkenness reoccur throughout the piece. Two piccolos play a short folk tune randomly throughout. The piece is sprinkled with chromatic runs and scales to portray Tam's hurried scampering as he runs into all sorts of trouble crossing the Brig O'Doon with his beloved horse, a grey mare, named Meg (or Maggie).

It is dedicated to John Michael Diack, director of Arnold's then publishing company Paterson Sons & Co.

Selected commercial recordings[edit]