The Celtic Viol

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COMPOSERS: James Macpherson,Niel Gow,O’Crolan,Simon Fraser,William Marshall & Trad.
LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Airs and Dances by O’Crolan, Simon Fraser, Niel Gow, James Macpherson, William Marshall & Trad.


For Jordi Savall the special interest of Celtic fiddle music is that, probably uniquely in Western Europe, it maintained the central importance of improvisation, and has continued to be passed down the generations by personal teaching and example, pupils learning by ear rather than through written, academic preservation.

Most of the best-known tunes from this repertoire were collected during the 19th century but many go back much further, and Savall has researched various 17th-century anthologies. The results of this research, added to his knowledge of Tudor viol music, led him to make connections between the viol and Celtic traditional repertoires.

Savall and Andrew Lawrence-King are among the most accomplished instrumentalists and most sensitive musicians in any genre, and they play these lovely airs and dances with great elegance and respect. This CD reminds me of the work of Sean O’Riarda, the great Irish composer and musicologist who was mentor to the group of musicians that eventually became The Chieftains. (Carolan’s Farewell, for example, was a gem in his repertoire.)


For aficionados of folk/roots music, these performances may be too polite, but there’s no doubting their sincerity or the beauty of their execution. Barry Witherden