"The Hebrides Overture" also known as "Fingal's Cave," is a concert overture composed by Felix Mendelssohn. Written in 1830, the piece was inspired by the German composer's trip to Scotland in 1829. Fingal's Cave itself is a cavern on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides archipelago located off the coast of Scotland. The opening bars of the famous theme were actually written the day before the composer visited the cave.
The music, though labelled as an overture, is intended to stand as a complete work. The piece was completed on December 16, 1830 and was originally entitled "The Lonely Island." However, Mendelssohn later revised the score completing it by June 20, 1832 and re-titling the music "The Hebrides." The overture was premiered on May 14, 1832 in London.
Mendelssohn was enchanted by Scotland and the Staffa scenery in particular. However, it appears that the journey to the tiny Hebridian island was not so enjoyable. He wrote from the comfort of dry land some days later, "How much has happened since my last letter and this! The most fearful sickness, Staffa, scenery, travels and people."
Naturalist Sir Joseph Banks discovered the cave in 1772 while on a natural history expedition to Iceland. It was named after Fingal, the hero of an epic poem by 18th-century Scots poet-historian James Macpherson. Mendelssohn's overture popularized the cave as a tourist destination and during Victorian times paddle steamers landed 300 people a day on the island.
The opening few minutes of the overture are played in the 1943 movie The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp while Roger Livesey's character Clive Candy visits his German friend in a Prisoner of War camp.