Many composers have been drawn towards the folk traditions,
in the main and quite understandably, of their own country, as a means
of expression. Here the guitarist Paul Galbraith has assembled a fine
collection of folk tunes from Scotland, Spain, Greece, Hungary and Norway.
In arrangements, for the most part by himself, Galbraith effortlessly
moves between the folk material of the various countries, totally convincing
in conveying their own individual stylistic qualities.
With fifty-two tracks, the longest being three minutes,
the shortest only twenty seconds, you could say that this is a disc
of musical miniatures but when set in their respective groups this is
definitely a case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.
Apart from the "Aires de la Mancha" by Federico
Moreno-Torroba all of the works on this disc are new to me. Whereas
Torroba’s view of Spanish folk music is rustic, Joaquin Nin-Culmell’s
set of "Tonadas" are seen in a more historical context.
Edvard Grieg’s "Norwegian Folk Tunes" are
reminiscent of his "Lyric Pieces" and bear all the hallmarks
of the composer. This is also true of the "For Children" by
Béla Bartók whose exploration of his native Hungarian
folk tradition was so important to a large part of his music. Greece
is a country that is more and more being recognised, particularly by
guitarists, as a source of interesting music. Although Yannis Constantinidis’s
"Miniatures on Greek Folk Tunes" are originally for piano,
they are also served eminently well on the guitar. Scotland is not a
land normally associated with the guitar, pipes being closer to Scottish
hearts, but here again Paul Galbraith demonstrates how the guitar is
suited to Marjory Kennedy-Fraser’s "Songs of the Hebrides"
in transcription from her piano setting of the songs.
To my knowledge, since 1994, Paul Galbraith has exclusively
used an eight-string guitar. The two extra strings, one each side of
the normal six, is a treble tuned to A and a bass tuned to a low C or
alternatively a low A. Added to this the instrument also incorporates
an extra external sound box activated from the body of the guitar via
a spike, something like that found on a cello. This innovation is the
brainchild of the much respected and sadly late David Rubio. The added
range, sonority, resonance, definition and clarity of notes are very
evident on this recording.
Using this guitar Galbraith’s past recordings have
included collections of Bach and Haydn, plus two discs, one again of
Bach and one of Brazilian music as a member of The Brazilian Guitar
Quartet. One detracting feature is Galbraith’s rather loud breathing,
which is very pronounced on many of his recordings and is an issue he
should address. This latest CD however is, in my opinion, the most original
and best performed yet. It is a big step forward for an already gifted