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The programme of Jan Tregeagle follows the Cornish legend of the same name, which to this day remains one of the most intriguing stories connected with the county.
In this symphonic prelude, we open with a scene of Bodmin Moor a little before dawn, shafts of light piercing the early morning fog which hangs threateningly over Dozmary Pool. As day slowly begins to break, a lonely figure emerges from the mist, that of Jan Tregeagle. His sorrow and seclusion are represented in the oboe solo, marked lamentoso. From the mysterious opening material, a threatening undercurrent sets up (bar 14) and unearthly creatures begin to gather. A chase across the moor soon begins (bar 22).
After a while, Jan finds safety from the demons (Larghetto, bar 49) and finds time to reflect on his deeds on earth, and is soon absorbed by the beauty of the land around him (bar 64). However, Jan is no reformed character, and soon his thoughts turn to escaping his punishment. As the demons gather once more, Jan begins to run towards the sound of the church bells at Roche Rock (bar 81). In his haste, Jan crashes through the east window of the church, and head becomes stuck inside, with his spirit shoulders unable to pass into the holy building.
In the story, Jan is taken away to Gwenvor Cove near Land's End (or in some versions, to Padstow) to undertake a series of menial tasks, all of which he tries to cheat at. The anxiety in the music from the piu mosso (bar 95) is representative of his endless irritation at his tasks.
It is said that Jan Tregeagle's cries can still be heard to this day, and the piece closes with a cry of anguish and frustration.
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