> O'stravaganza - Fantasy on Vivaldi and the Celtic music of Ireland [CF]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Fantasy on Vivaldi and the Celtic music of Ireland

Berçeuse de Gráinne pour Diarmait
Il Sonno
Ceol cuàine
Il Duello
A Cláirseach
Jig della Inquietudine
Eirin sonata
Bunch of rushes
Am cain
Mister Bethag and the Princess
La Ciacconna rossa

Recorded in Italy in April 2001
VIRGIN CLASSICS VC 545494-2 [58’19"]


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This is not such a bizarre cross-over as one might imagine for in the 18th century the great Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harpist, met the Italian musician Geminiani in Dublin, and through him encountered the music of, yes, guess who, Antonio Vivaldi. So here we have a case of substituting Irish instruments for baroque ones, using baroque instruments to accompany Irish themes, by creating dialogues between Celtic and baroque instruments, or by letting all the musicians improvise. One moment we appear to be listening to a ‘straight’ baroque concerto, then all of a sudden the conventional string continuo/ripieno of the baroque ensemble (Le Orfanelle della Pieta) gives way to celtic musicians playing a jig or reel on anything from a Irish bouzouki to a fiddle.

The baroque group consists of three each of first and second violins, one viola, two cellos, a bass and harpsichord while the Irish musicians play Irish fiddle, an Irish flute (like a baroque flute), tin and low whistles, Uileann pipes, Irish bouzouki, mandolins, bodhran, bones, and the Celtic harp (played here with metal strings to resemble its harpsichord counterpart in the other group). There are a couple of female vocalists in songs using adaptations of ancient Gaelic texts. Playing standards are excellent in both ‘camps’ and on the whole the mix makes a series of effortless transitions from one style to the other. Melodies originating with Vivaldi are not the popular ones (nothing from The Four Seasons for example) but include one from an oboe concerto, while two from a violin concerto (in B minor RV 168) have apparently never been heard on disc before. If there’s not enough snappy, foot-tapping jigs or reels, but rather too much of a mood of self-indulgent gloom especially in the vocal numbers, the last two instrumental tracks sparkle at least.

It’s not quite a case of the Red Priest appearing in Riverdance but somewhere along those lines.

Christopher Fifield

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