The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Jordi Savall (treble & lyra viol) Andrew Lawrence-King (Irish harps/psaltery) Frank McGuire (bodhran)
Composer: Trad

Jordi Savall’s second volume of ‘homage’ to Irish and Scottish musical traditions comprises performances on different types of viol, accompanied, where appropriate, by Irish harp or psaltery, and bodhran. Its 28 pieces are organised into seven sets by key and changes of instrumentation.

Critical reception will doubtless be mixed about this particular refashioning of Celtic music. Some listeners will relish the variety of moods exploited and acknowledge the versatility of the family of viols. Others will criticise these players’ deconstruction of folk materials to levels where the playing is Classically refined, stilted and lacking in this or that element of style. Nevertheless, one cannot deny that these performances are highly accomplished, sometimes simply beautiful, and at other times full of vitality or profoundly poetic. My personal highlights are the rhythmic Lancashire Pipes, which Savall tackles with powerful attack, The Cup of Tea and Nathaniel Gow’s Lament, but there are several charming airs, melancholy laments and energetic dances to savour.

The reverberant recording, captured in a Catalonian monastery, invests the instruments with a false bloom and occasionally picks up some of Savall’s grunts; but the overall atmosphere, which should doubtless resemble something like an Irish ‘hooley’, is as gentlemanly as that in Ascot’s Royal Enclosure.