The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: The Celtic Consort
Total Time: 43:23
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Linn Barnes: Lutes, Guitars
Allison Hampton: Lute, Celtic Harps
Wendy Morrison: Tinwhistles, Concertina
Myron Bretholz: Bodhrans
Review by Henry Doktorski:
The first word that came to my mind when I listened to this CD by the Celtic Consort was "heavenly," which, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, means: causing or marked by great happiness, beauty, peace, etc., holy, divine.
Their music radiates joy and life, nut not in a rambunctious or disheveled sense; in a very refined and structured format, like the courtly dances of the Renaissance. And that is what this album is about: a new presentation (and a new instrumentation) of old music: traditional and court dances.
The music ranges from traditional Breton, Irish, and English country dances to composed pieces by Cesare Negri (1536-1604), John Johnson (1540-1595), Tielman Susato (mid 16th century), Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), and an anonymous composer of the late 16th century.
Turlough O'Carolan, the blind 18th century Irish harper-composer, accounts for many of the selections on the album. Carolan wrote music of his music in honor of various patrons throughout Ireland. The pieces are for the most part termed "planxtys," meaning, in Irish Gaelic, "in praise of" or "in honor of" some individual.
All of the tracks are memorable, but I think one piece deserves special mention: "Ev Chistr LAOU" which is the national drinking song of Brittany and concerns the national drink: cider. This presentation begins with the lute in a surprisingly meditative single melody. Soon the tinwhistle enters gracefully and pianissimo. After the first refrain, the tempo increases and the bodhran enters quietly. The next refrain features Wendy's wailing tinwhistle and then suddenly the song ends abruptly.
The arrangements and instrumental choices are appropriate and the ensemble's balance is superb. I believe listeners will especially delight in the concertina and tinwhistle playing of our own newsgroup friend Wendy Morrison, which contrasts very well with the strings of the lutes and harp. Truly a very satisfying experience!
In March 1996 at the American Accordion Musicological Society (AAMS) convention in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Wendy and I sight-read Baroque music for recorder and continuo. She played the recorder part on concertina and I played the continuo part on free-bass accordion. It was a pleasure playing with her then and it is a pleasure listening to her playing on this CD now.
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