Favorite Scotch Melodies arranged in brilliant style with Variations for the Piano forte…no. 6. ‘Scot’s [sic] Wha Hae…’ by Wm. Vincent Wallace. New York: Published by Wm. Hall & Son, 239 Broadway; London: R. Cocks & Co. [ca. 1854].
This popular Scotch national air (the tune to Burns’s “Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled”) is best known today in the concert hall through Max Bruch’s sentimental treatment of it in his “Scottish Fantasy.” William Vincent Wallace (1812-65), whose dashing variations are rather a contrast to Bruch’s, was an Irishman whose career might provide the material for several romantic adventure stories, even if we believe only half of what has been written about it. After playing the violin in Dublin, where his efforts to emulate Paganini nearly ruined his health, he tried to recuperate by settling in the Australian bush (for a concert in Sydney he was given a hundred sheep). He later went to New Zealand–some say for whaling–and is supposed to have escaped death at the hands of cannibals through the intercession of the chief’s daughter. Shortly afterward, Wallace survived a mutiny in the South Seas (other accounts mention only an explosion on a steamship in the Atlantic in 1850). He created something of a sensation in India, where he may have defended himself against an attacking tiger; in Mexico, where a mass commposed by him was played; and eventually in the United States, which he liked enough to acquire not only American citizenship but a second, American, wife.
It is almost certainly mere coincidence that the muster-out rolls of the New York Ninth Regiment, “Hawkin’s Zouaves,” list a William V. Wallace as having been their bandmaster during the early part of the Civil War, when Wallace was in London, preoccupied with the productions of his operas. American band books of the period attest to the popularity of two of these operas, Maritana and Lurline, by the inclusion of various excerpts and potpourris arranged from them. A eulogy, in the form of a handbill soliciting subscriptions for the support of his (American) widow and children was underwritten by a veritable who’s who of the music trades in 1865, the year he died at his home in the Pyrenees.
(Sound Recording and Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress/Tehrkot Media)