Various: Scottish traditional songs

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Songs of Scotland
WORKS: Scottish traditional songs
PERFORMER: Marie McLaughlin (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Isobel Frayling-Cork (clarsach)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67106
Like Lisa Milne’s Hebridean folksongs (also for Hyperion), this recital of Scottish song treads the borderland between folk song and art song – or art song and heart song as Walt Whitman would have it. Among the 33 songs in this generous 75-minute programme, there is as much Walter Scott and Burns as there is Gaelic Anon. And when Anon appears, he or she is inevitably clad in the subtle, affectionate plaids of classic arrangers such as Marjory Kennedy-Fraser. There is not much sight of Beethoven or Britten.

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Marie McLaughlin’s gleaming yet often dark-hued soprano takes to this music as to the bothy born; and Edinburgh-born Malcolm Martineau heels and toes it with great imaginative finesse, tuning in to the physical essence of each song, be it the springing heather tread of the high road and the low road, or the mesmeric oscillations of a lullaby from Barra. Isobel Frayling-Cork’s clarsach harps away eloquently in the Kennedy-Fraser arrangements of ‘The Cockle Gatherer’ and the ‘Eriskay Love Lilt’.

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Just a couple of tiny quibbles in this otherwise irresistible disc: more comprehensive notes on the historical allusions would have been welcome (when and why was Willie fighting in Germany?). And, far be it from a Sassenach to question glossaries, but aren’t ‘yowes’ sheep rather than cows? Hilary Finch