Late Night Sessions live at the Edinburgh International Festival
Full programme details at end of review
Concerto Caledonia (David McGuinness - harpsichord, fortepiano, reed organ, melodica, David Greenberg - violin, Chris Norman - flute and whistle, Alison McGillivray - cello and viol); Bill Taylor - clàrsach and harp; Elizabeth Kenny - theorbo and lute; Steve Player - guitar; Patsy Seldon - clàrsach; Sarah Bevan-Baker - violin; Nicolette Moonen - viola; Alasdair Roberts - voice and guitar; Michael Marra - voice; Martin Carthy - voice and guitar; Katharine Fuge - soprano
rec. live, The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh 20, 22, 24, 26 August 2009
DELPHIAN DCD34093 [62:51]
Many times I have wished when attempting to describe the contents of a disc that I could simply be able to play musical illustrations. Never more so than here. The titles of the tracks give little clue to what they are, and even if you knew, say, the Paven (sic) by Duncan Burnett in its written form you would not expect it to sound as it does here. He was in fact a Glasgow musician who wrote this keyboard pavan into a music book in about 1610. As played here with not merely a harpsichord but also clàrsachs and cello it undoubtedly comes across as a powerful piece. A similar surprise comes with “The Duke of Athol’s March”, an example of ceòl mòr, that is, music for the highland bagpipe, but apparently the source book used here - Daniel Dow’s “37 New Reells & Srathspeys” (1776) - indicates it as being suitable also for “the violin, harpsichord, piano forte or German flute”. What we get is a flute solo with the drone on low stringed instruments, a result of very considerable beauty, albeit a long way from the sound of the bagpipe which the composer had probably expected.
In effect this disc contains the highlights of four late night concerts in which Concerto Caledonia were augmented by a variety of other musicians, and in which they play a great variety of music with Scottish connections. Some are very much in the folk vein, and played and sung as they might be at a particularly good ceilidh, whereas others are more conventional art music. Most however have strong aspects of both, and it is good that what in other hands might be yet another depressing “crossover” disc combining the worst aspects of both, here for the most part we have invigorating and memorable music making. Amongst the most enjoyable tracks are “The Secret Kiss” from James Oswald’s cycle “Colin’s Kisses”, beautifully sung by Katharine Fuge, and “The Scots Chaconne”, even if as the admirably full notes explain this piece is neither very Scottish nor is a Chaconne. The first movement of Schetky’s Eb Quartet of 1777 is a typically busy early Classical string quartet, whetting the appetite for the rest of it and played here with the addition of a fortepiano, justified by the inclusion of figures above the cello part. The folksy “The Book of Doves” sung by the composer, Alasdair Roberts, is the only contemporary item, but is one of the most impressive and enjoyable tracks.
Not every item is a complete success. Marshall-Burns as sung in a very gravelly voice by Michael Marra seems much longer than its nine minutes and there are a couple too many lengthy fiddle tunes. As I have said, the booklet notes are good although it would have been helpful to have the texts of the songs included. Alasdair Roberts and Martin Carthy sing with clear diction but I found Michael Marra’s accent hard to follow, and Katharine Fuge sings with great beauty but an almost entire absence of audible words. These are clearly recordings of live events, with occasional noises off, including a gun from the Edinburgh Tattoo, and applause after some items. Nonetheless this is more than a pleasant souvenir of what must have been enjoyable concerts. It is a fine reminder of the fascinating and invigorating mixture of influences on music north of the border, well played and clearly if closely recorded.
Programme details: 1 The Book of Doves - Alasdair Roberts [4:18]
2 Marshall-Burns - Robert Burns/William Marshall arr Greenberg/McGuinness/Marra [9:10]
3 Sir Patrick Spens - trad arr Carthy [6:00]
4 The Duke of Athol’s March - trad arr Norman [5:30]
5 Jamaican tunes - C McNab [1:56]
6 Paven - Duncan Burnett [3:18]
7 Chiling O Guiry - arr Burk Thurmoth [5:17]
8 Alloway House - arr James Oswald [3:42]
9 The Secret Kiss - James Oswald [2:45]
10 The Scots Chaconne - John McLachlan arr McGuinness [3:18]
11 Reading ends in melancholy - John Abell arr McGuinness [3:45]
12 Allegro from Quartetto Op 6 No 1 - J G C Schetky ed Summers/McGuinness [6:08]
13 Black Jock - trad arr Dolly & Shirley Collins/trad arr Greenberg [7:34]
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.