On the Massacre of Glencoe, Second version of WoO 152 nr. 5, Hess 192 (mp3)
Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the protestant Stadtholder Willem III of the Netherlands became King William III of England and Scotland. The leader of the Scottish clan of the MacDonalds, through no fault of his own, was too late pledging allegiance to the new king.
About five in the morning of 13 February, 1692, the MacDonalds were treacherously assaulted by Archibald Campbell and his soldiers in the valley of Glencoe, just a few miles east of Ballachulish. About 40 members of the MacDonald clan, men and women, were brutally butchered. Although Campbell was under orders of the government, probably a feud between the MacDonalds and Campbells was the prime reason for this bloodbath. For more gory details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Glencoe .
The Valley of Glencoe
The Catholics in Ireland, sworn enemies of William III, nursed the rememberance of the Glencoe Massacre as proof of the unreliability of Protestants in general, and of William III in particular. Thus the present song became part of Irish folklore.
The more familiar version of Beethoven´s arrangement of the melody was actually the first version; this second version was written several years later but never published by Thomson. Thomson complained about the original setting and its disjointed melodic line in the introduction, which he asked to be corrected. In particular, he stated that he was unable to hear the top notes of the right-hand part as a proper melody, and asked for a new introduction "in a cantabile style, with more melody in the piano part." Beethoven's revised version reached Thomson too late; he had already published the "unsatisfactory" version.
The text of the poem as published by Thomson is by Sir Walter Scott, and begins as follows:
O tell me Harper wherefore flow they waywards notes of wail and woe for down the desert of Glencoe where none may list their melody? Say, harp'st thou to the mists that fly, or to the dundeer glancing by, or to the eagle, that from high screams chorus to thy minstrel say?
(There are 16 more stanzas, all of which were written after Beethoven had submitted the first version of the song.)