The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Bonnie Rideout (fiddle/viola) Allan MacDonald (Highland bagpipes/voice) Simon O’Dwyer (Bronze Age horns) William Jackson (clarsach) Chris Norman (flute)
Composer: Trad

This challenging, fascinating disc takes the listener deep into the world of the piobaireachd, the classical music of the Scottish Highlands. Bonnie Rideout explores pieces originally written for the Highland bagpipes or the clarsach (Celtic harp) as well as works composed specifically for the fiddle. Many are ancient tunes, not published or noted down until the 18th century. With their themes of longing, love, lamentation, of battles won and lost, they evoke landscape and history as well as human emotions. Switching between fiddle and viola, solos and duets, and deploying an array of alternative tunings, Rideout creates a different tonal palette for each piobaireachd: in the opening MacDougall’s Gathering, her viola calls together the clan with an extraordinary, bagpipe-like intensity, whereas the closing Ion-do, ion-da finds the same instrument, atmospherically recessed against the sounds of a thunderstorm, floating an otherworldly chant out to sea. While Rideout’s treatment of the piobaireachd themes has a captivating directness, her expansive variations display both technical mastery and sensitive pacing. The double-stops and complex, piping-style ornamentation demand an exemplary bow technique, and Rideout brings great control and clarity to even the wildest passages. With a vibrant yet focused recorded sound, and helpfully detailed booklet notes, this is an absorbing disc that demands close and repeated listening.

Peter Somerford