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Thea Musgrave: "I will never not be Scottish"

16 Oct 2023

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Piero di Cosimo’s Caccia primitiva (Primitive Hunt, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), which suggested to Thea Musgrave how the cycle of the seasons could be applied metaphorically to man

Thea Musgrave has long been a vital figure in Scottish music. Her refusal to be bound by standard performance practices has resulted in the drama of her scores extending far beyond her stage works (including a dozen operas) into purely instrumental music. Typically, she brings her own stamp to bear on The Seasons (part of our 2023/24 Digital Season, available to view free for one month from 16 November), one quite different from similar settings by the likes of Vivaldi and Haydn.

By way of introduction to The Seasons, we are delighted that Thea Musgrave agreed to a short interview.

The Seasons is among your works to have been inspired by works of art [see below for full details]. How did you select the paintings behind the individual movements?

Having decided to write about the seasons, I visited the Met in NYC and found the paintings that spoke to me the most for each independent season. There was a wealth of artwork to choose from – but my response to the chosen ones was immediate, visceral, and irreplaceable.

Regardless of the medium, depictions of the seasons generally open with spring. What was behind your decision to start with autumn?

The academic year always starts in the Fall. And it is also a more hopeful progression to navigate through Fall and Winter to Spring then Summer.

The name Nadia Boulanger (understandably) comes up repeatedly with composers who launched their careers in the 20th century. What did her teaching bring to your music?

The understanding that constant attention to and precision in moment-to-moment musical choices determines the quality and integrity of each part of a composition.

The 2023/24 Season marks the SCO’s 50th anniversary. What are your abiding memories of working with the Orchestra?

It has always been a joy to return ‘home’ and work with such a wonderful musical organization as the SCO. Having celebrated my own 50th Wedding Anniversary last year I am freshly aware of the enormous rewards in building an increasingly polished, secure and productive ensemble over half a century! Bravissimi!!

You have maintained a close relationship with the broader Scottish music scene, from Scottish Opera touring with Mary, Queen of Scots in the late 1970s to Turbulent Landscapes being performed at the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival. What does this connection mean to you?

It is my birthplace and the home and culture and environment of my early formative years. It is my heritage and my original vantage point – and part of my innate character and spirit. I will never not be Scottish – no matter where I go in the world – and what other influences I choose to adopt.

Copyright restrictions will not allow us to reproduce all the artworks which inspired The Seasons. In addition to Caccia primitiva shown above, they are listed as follows:

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