From the composer’s home on Anglesey, the magnificent mountain range of Eryri (‘abode of the eagles’), known as Snowdonia in English, can be seen clearly, and it is this fine view that spurred him to compose this tone-poem.
Just as the mountains change from season to season, and the view alters as one climbs the slopes, there are several distinct and contrasting sections to the piece itself. First we hear the bustle and excitement of the area in summer, as tourists flock to the foot of Snowdon; then an impression of the confident striding of those setting off to climb.
After a brisk climax, the codetta to the energetic theme becomes the basis of a new, folk-like, idea which develops into a majestic anthem suggesting the grandeur of the mountain-range.
The famous little train of Snowdon is brought to mind by a repetitive, mechanical idea which leads to a section combining both the main themes of excitement and grandeur, and to a powerful climax.
Then, after a moment of silence, the atmosphere changes completely. Here is the ineffable solitude – and timeless beauty – of Snowdonia; but from the cellos (saxophone) we soon hear the folk-like theme slowly re-asserting itself, resolving into a peremptory fanfare which leads back to the opening mood and a return of the opening theme. But the final word is given to the ‘solitude’ motive, now transformed into a resolute chorale representing the eternal permanence of these extraordinary mountains. (Composer’s note)