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The Piper and The Fairy Queen
Turlough O’CAROLAN (1670-1738)
Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór [4.00]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Suite La Musette in G Minor, No 6 [13.16]
An Droighneán Donn (The Brown Thorn) [2.56]
Garden of Daisies [1.47]
The Downfall of Paris [3.45]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Gulliver Suite for 2 violins [8.41]
An Leanbh Sidhe (The Fairy Child) [3.40]
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Pifa from Messiah [2.21]
The Fox Chase [5.24]
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)
Musette and Menuets from Scylla et Glaucus [3.53]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Suite from The Fairy Queen [12.25]
Turlough O’CAROLAN
Carolan’s Concerto
David Power (uillean pipes)
Camerata Kilkenny
rec. Kilmurry House, Co. Kilkenny, 25-27 February 2018.
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD156 [65.33]

This is a fascinating, if unexpected, release, from the ever-enterprising RTÉ Lyric FM label. The combination of uillean pipes with baroque ensemble is used to create a most rewarding programme.

The bagpipes, in their various forms, were common instruments across Europe in popular music, but their sound tended to be an influence on more formal composers: I can think of no 17th or 18th Century ‘classical’ work which includes bagpipes in its instrumentation, and would be delighted to corrected. I had some fear that the programme here would overstretch speculations on direct influences, but both notes and programme make it clear that our attention is drawn to affinities, not consanguinity.

And there are affinities, not least in the use - in both bagpipe and baroque music – of similar forms of ornamentation, such as runs, trills and grace notes. Nor may we ignore the enthusiasm for traditional dance forms and folk melodies as inspiration in 17th and 18th Century music. Bach, in the final chorus of The Peasant Cantata, BWV 212, delights in his reference to the drone of the Dudelsack.

The uillean pipes are different from their Scottish and other cousins. The most evident difference is that they are powered not by the breath of the player, but by a small bellows strapped to the waist, powered by the elbow – that is why they are often played sitting down. (Scottish Lowland Pipes and Northumbrian smallpipes also use bellows). The chanter enables the player to cover two full octaves, including flats and sharps. It is possible then for a skilled player to produce music of great variety, with a variety of effects: possibilities for versatility taken up masterfully by David Powers. Because the air input is dryer than human breath, as well as because of the structure of the instruments, uillean pipes are quieter and sweeter-toned than their Highland counterparts – indoor rather than open-air instruments.

The pipes here are occasionally accompanied by strings and continuo, as in Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór, The Downfall of Paris, and the lovely Carolan’s Concerto by the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan – a musician who impressed Geminiani. The other Irish works are played solo. Interesting is the use of pipes in the Pastoral Symphony from Part 1 of Messiah picturing the shepherds before the Annunciation. Pifa is an Italian word for bagpipes, and, with a performance as lovely as this, I doubt Handel would have minded the change. Similarly, as a musette is the French equivalent of the uillean pipes, the latter’s use in the Leclair is both apposite and charming. The Telemann pieces are played without pipes, but their affinity with the rest of the programme is evident.

Production values are characteristically high, and the 6-person Camerata Kilkenny sensitive and poetic in their music-making.

Michael Wilkinson

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