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Beethoven: Scottish Songs, Op. 108

Rufus Müller (tenor); Hammer Clavier Trio (Rubicon)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
RCD 1062_Beethoven

Scottish Songs, Op. 108 – selection; Polly Stewart
Rufus Müller (tenor); Hammer Clavier Trio
Rubicon RCD 1062   48:22 mins

This enjoyable selection of Scottish folk song arrangements by Beethoven forms just a small part of a series that comprised some 179 arrangements of largely Scottish, Irish and Welsh tunes which the composer completed for the Edinburgh-based folk song collector George Thomson in the early 1800s. Both men were interested in creating a lasting legacy of folk tunes, with Thomson deliberately commissioning top international composers, the sometimes bawdy lyrics of the originals rewritten by Scottish poets, including Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie.

Tenor Rufus Müller and the Hammer Clavier Trio, the latter made up of period instrument specialists Cynthia Roberts (violin), Allen Whear (cello) and Christoph Hammer (fortepiano), make nuanced and elegant work of Beethoven’s ingenious arrangements, from the mournful ‘The Lovely Lass of Inverness’ to the pulsing thrust of ‘Bonnie Laddie, Highland Laddie’, and the tinkling of the fortepiano sheep bells in the lively ‘Shepherd’s Song’. The jar in such lieder, to Scots ears, is always going to be the pronunciation, and sometimes we could perhaps have done, expressively, with a little less refined gentleman of the salon, a little more Burnsian raconteur of the tavern. But Müller excels in the more touching songs, such as ‘Sunset’, with its delicate interplay of instruments.

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Sarah Urwin Jones