Ian McGlynn, the presenter of Sound Out on RTÉ lyric fm, reflects on a year of fine new music and new releases, and picks five highlights that you might have missed...

Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI - Venezia Millenaria (Alia Vox Records)

It’s not an easy task to contain a thousand years of music in one release, without sounding like a dreaded ‘Greatest Album Ever...’ compilation. But that’s just what Jordi Savall’s epic project Venezia Millenaria accomplished earlier this year.

Between 700 and 1797, the city of Venice played a pre-eminent and influential role in the Mediterranean region and around the world. With its aquatic network of canals, this crossroads between the East and the West attracted merchants of different origins to a thriving hub of business, exchange and interests. Venezia Millenaria is a beautiful 340-page book and two CDs that takes in the history of the city via a millennium of music, performed by Jordi Savall and his early-music ensemble Hesperion XXI. What’s most impressive about the collection is that it flows seamlessly from track to track, sometimes spanning centuries as it does so. Try to listen in one sitting and you’ll be transported to another time and place.

Sean Shibe – SoftLOUD (Delphian Records)

One musician who everyone seemed to be talking about this year was the Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe. He delighted audiences at the Great Music in Irish Houses festival during the summer, and is frequently referred to as ‘one of the foremost guitarists’ of his generation. Born in Edinburgh of English and Japanese heritage, he was the first guitarist to be selected for the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme and is constantly in demand as a soloist. His ‘uncompromisingly monumental’ softLOUD project premiered at the East Neuk and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, which pits Jacobean lute music on classical guitar against music by David Lang and Julia Wolfe on electric guitar. The album also includes his recording of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint who, when he heard the first mixes, said ‘Wow’.

Garth Knox and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh - All Soundings Are True (Diatribe Records)

This unique album teams Ó Raghallaigh’s self-christened hardanger d’amore fiddle with Knox’s viola d’amore, and to great effect. Violist Garth Knox is Dublin-born and a leading contemporary music performer, having worked directly with composers including Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Ó Raghallaigh is better known for his work as a Gloaming band-member and soloist, and occasional collaborator with Laurie Anderson, Amiina and This is How We Fly.

Both musicians share a deep interest in folk music and the art of improvisation, which delighted audiences who saw their live performance of this album at the New Music Dublin festival in September.

Carolyn Sampson – A Soprano’s Schubertiade (BIS Records)

Concert-goers at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival might already be familiar with English soprano Carolyn Sampson, a wonderful vocalist and interpreter. Earlier this year, she teamed up with pianist Joseph Middleton for an album of Lieder by Franz Schubert composed to texts by female poets of the time, or written for female protagonists.

It’s a beautiful collection of works that can be enjoyed as separate tracks, or as an entire collection. Check out the sprightly Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen - Suleika eagerly awaits the response to a message sent to her beloved, but as you’ll hear in the music she’s no princess waiting to be rescued.

Keith Jarrett – After the Fall/Live at La Fenice (ECM)

2018 was a stellar year for fans of pianist and composer Keith Jarrett, who were treated to two great releases on ECM. The first, After the Fall, was a live concert with his Standards Trio cohorts, double-bass player Gary Peacock and Jack De Johnette on drums. It was recorded in 1998 following several years where Jarrett suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and was unable to perform live. His return to performing happened at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre,and Jarrett calls it a historical document, but it’s also a really great concert of jazz standards, bebop tunes and the Great American Songbook. Jarrett explained that some of the choices for the album were in part because of his recovery, figuring that bebop might be a good fit, because he wouldn’t need to play as hard as usual.

The second Jarrett album is a recent release on ECM, the third in his renowned ‘live’ series following The Köln Concert (1975) and La Scala (1997). Keith Jarrett live at La Fenice is a solo performance, recorded in 2006 at the Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The concert took the form of several improvised movements divided into ‘Parts’ followed by a selection of standards. There’s even a really nice Gilbert and Sullivan transcription in the mix, too.

Ian McGlynn presents Sound Out every Sunday evening 9-10pm on RTÉ lyric fm, an exploration of the latest music from Irish and international artists and composers, including a weekly gig guide and a listen to new releases. You can hear Garth Knox and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh perform All Soundings Are True, recorded live at the National Concert Hall, on Sunday December 23rd at 9pm on RTÉ lyric fm. And on the final Sound Out of 2018 (Dec 30th) Ian includes these highlights and more, plus a preview of some concerts and festivals happening in 2019 - listen back after the broadcast here.