New Staffa symphony makes waves

The entrance to Fingal's Cave

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A new album inspired by Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and journey to Staffa in 1829 has rocketed into the UK’s classic music charts.

Staffa, by Ned Bigham and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, was released last month.

Ned Bigham. Photo Clive Barda

The title piece, originally written for orchestra and three large screens, was created in collaboration with BAFTA film director Gerry Fox, and was premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, at the 70th Anniversary Celebration Concert of the Edinburgh International Festival in August and broadcast afterwards on Radio 3.

‘Scored for full symphony orchestra, celeste and two harps, Staffa dramatically evokes the fleeting moods of the Inner Hebridean island’s elemental location,’ the album’s publicist explains. ‘Gerry Fox’s visuals pay homage to Mendelssohn’s famous 1829 visit to its haunting Fingal’s Cave by exploring the unique hexagonal, basalt column formations of the interior and its surroundings.


‘The other works on the disc complement Staffa (in its stereo version) and demonstrate Bigham’s playful way with existing forms. The two sets of Archipelago Dances whisk the listener off to Bigham’s imagined islands in these vivid orchestral tone poems. Halmahera is scored for two pianos and orchestra, with the canonic piano parts delightfully performed by Lynda Cochrane and Judith Keaney. The irresistible Tegua takes the polka form as its starting point. The Two Nightscapes are mysterious and haunting, with the glorious harp writing in Serenade performed by Pippa Tunnell.’

Ned Bigham is an eclectic composer whose career encompasses orchestral, chamber, choral and electronica.