Delphian is a Scottish
recording company based in Edinburgh
who enjoys bringing to our notice little-known
Scottish music of all kinds. Recorded
to a high standard with fine Scottish
performers, the whole enterprise is
laudable and fascinating, and this disc
marks a point of considerable interest.
This is not a period
of British music which has been generally
highly regarded by earlier commentators
and critics. And Scotland is often seen
as a back-water, conservative and lacking
any genius or indeed any particular
composer of talent. Well if you do hold
this opinion then this generously filled
CD should begin to alter your blinkered
What you need with
a disc like this is a good booklet essay,
describing the background, the music
and the composers. This we are offered.
In fact the notes by David McGuiness
are excellent. The texts of the nine
recorded songs are given. In addition
we are offered the source and publication
date of each piece and biographies of
the performers. However the exact dates
of the composers are not specified,
not even those like Geminiani who are
So to the music and
to what you can expect to hear.
Some items here are
arrangements of traditional Scottish
melodies. That obviously applies to
the pieces from ‘The Caledonian Muse’
published by the Thompson family in
1785 and aimed at a more low-brow quick-selling
market. Other dances and songs, like
‘The Broom of Cowdenknows’, although
professionally arranged by contemporaries,
fall into a similar category. Then we
have some dances that are grouped into
suites like those of Robert Mackintosh.
It may seem odd to
find two Italians represented here.
Urbani and Geminiani (born in Lucca
c.1680-1762) both lived for many years
in England. Urbani was based in Edinburgh
for some time.
There are some more
‘serious’ instrumental works like the
brilliant ‘Gavott’ by Mackintosh. This
is reminiscent of Handel with its varied
repeats. Finally we have the songs and
four text settings of ‘Robbie’ Burns.
There is also a song by James Oswald
which comes from a kind of song-cycle
published in 1742 called ‘Colin’s Kisses’.
This is the last of a set of twelve
songs. The first ones have been recorded
by Concerto Caledonia (Linn CKD 101).
This is quite a professional piece perhaps
inspired by Thomas Arne. The music is
rather elegant and ‘drawing room’, with
not much that is Scottish in its melodic
inspiration. The verses are broken up
by a violin phrase and a soprano used
for the answering second verse. Both
singers join in, mostly in simple unison,
for verse three.
I especially enjoyed
the melody used for the strophic ‘Auld
Robin Gray’ by Robert Bremner. This
uses a melancholy tune - a sad song
about a girl who reluctantly marries
the man she never really loved. With
its ‘scotch-snap’ rhythm and its modal
melody it has an air of a folk tune
but manages to be truly Scottish yet
I have implied that
the performances are first class and
I repeat it. Although the soprano Mhairi
Lawson has too much vibrato for my taste,
nevertheless she sings with lovely phrasing
and with grace. Everything on the disc
is nicely presented. I would be happy
to recommend this CD to anyone with
an interest in slightly off-beat music.