Coronach was first recorded by mezzo-soprano Helen Lothian with violist Simon Roland-Jones for BBC Radio Three, and broadcast on the 2 April 1995. Its first live performance was at Kettles Yard in Cambridge, with violist and composer Russell Millard.


  • Mz + va
  • Mezzo-soprano
  • 9 min

Programme Note

Coronach (1995)
for mezzo-soprano and solo viola

Coronach was completed in January 1995, and commissioned by BBC Radio Three for their Fairest Isle Songbook series, broadcast that same year. Scored for mezzo-soprano and solo viola, the work sets a poem by the Scottish poet, Olive Fraser (1909-77) - a lament on the majestic tragedy of a "stoned and dying cygnet". 

Like the panels of a Byzantine triptych, Coronach is cast in three sections. At the heart of the work is the song itself, framed either side by viola meditations, that muse on the poem's central image:                           

O King, dream not upon the fabulous air
And, dreaming, beat, and beating, wounded wake.
I have a passion that my heart must bear
And thou hast one that thine will break.

I weep for thee on thy last pool's last brink,
The royal ruin'd head, bewrayèd wing,
But in thy death 'tis of my kin I think
With horror, grief past uttering.

Julian Philips, 2023