Jordi Savall’s constant musical inquisitiveness, which has already taken him among many other places round the courts of mediaeval Europe, to the music of the Jewish diaspora and the Middle East, has now led him to the wealth of Irish and Scottish folk music that has been composed, collected and passed down orally through the centuries. There are 29-plus dances and airs here (many tracks follow the folk musicians’ custom of running several tunes in sequence), performed on five- or six-stringed treble viol or five-string treble fiddle in a variety of tunings. It could have been a novelty, but it isn’t: the dances and doleful laments work wonderfully well on these instruments, with their hint of roughness on lower strings and rich singing quality on the top (emphasised by a generously echoing acoustic).
Savall’s playing is exquisite, full of pliant shaping of melodies, with a light use of vibrato and the typical mordents and acciaccaturas of the folk fiddler. A lot of it is solo, with some multiple-stopped exuberance along the way. Elsewhere Andrew Lawrence-King is an elegant partner on Irish harp and psalterium. The notes (in eight languages, including two kinds of Gaelic) are generous, with details of origins and sources for each piece.
From the August 2009 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.