The Celtic Viol II

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Anonymous,C Hunter,DR MacDonald,JS Skinner,Nathaniel Gow,O’Carolan,traditional Scottish and Irish
LABELS: AliaVox
WORKS: Viol works by O’Carolan, Nathaniel Gow, C Hunter, DR MacDonald, JS Skinner, anonymous from the Manchester Gamba Book and traditional Scottish and Irish
PERFORMER: Jordi Savall (treble viol, Lyra viol), Andrew Lawrence-King (Irish harp, psalterium), Frank McGuire (bodhran)
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9878 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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As I explained when reviewing his first Celtic Viol album in the July 2009 issue, Jordi Savall is inspired by the way that Celtic fiddle music has kept improvisation at its heart and has continued to be transmitted by personal teaching and example.

The insert-booklet makes the point that, when the pieces presented here were popular, there was no distinction between ‘art’ and ‘folk’ music. The origin of a tune mattered less than its function or, maybe, the style of performance.

These warm, elegant, delightful realisations of Irish and Scottish airs and dances would have been more at home in a drawing room than, say, a public house. They are spirited, but more suited to respectful listening than dancing, despite the occasional presence of the bodhrun-player Frank McGuire.

This time Savall uses bass viol on several tracks, and its rich, ringing tones add significantly to the pleasure provided by the lyrical compositions. Several of the pieces featuring the deeper instrument use unusual tunings (the complete Lancashire Pipes collection used 22 different tunings!) and intensify a sense of ‘exotica’ despite originating so close to home.

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Savall and Andrew Lawrence-King have again opened a window on an approach to the tradition which differs intriguingly from more mainstream revivalist or folk-rock realisations. Barry Witherden