The connections between baroque and traditional Irish music are explored in this fascinating new recording, which brings together the traditional music skills of uilleann piper David Power with acclaimed early music group Camerata Kilkenny. The opening track, Carolan’s Sí bheag, sí mhór sets the tone for the CD, beginning with the solo pipes before being underpinned by Barry Guy’s jazz-influenced bass-riffs and then the singing strings of the rest of the group.
What follows in compositions by Telemann, Purcell and Leclair, and a number of traditional tunes is a celebration of Ireland’s musical history. Key to the performance of both styles of music is ornamentation – the use of grace notes, runs and trills - which brings the written notes alive, giving the music a feeling of improvisation. So while the music derives from the eighteenth century, this live exploratory edge really gives these performances a contemporary feel.
In both Suite La Musette in G minor, No. 6 by Telemann and the Pifa from Handel’s Messiah, Camerata Kilkenny led by Maya Homburger, the idea of the drone provided by wind-blown pipes is conveyed figuratively by the lower notes of the strings in imitation of the baroque musette, an antecedent of the uilleann pipes. Following on from the Pifa, David Power plays a virtual tone poem for solo uilleann pipes, The Fox Chase, conveying the melody on an old chanter, once referred to as ‘the 18 Moloney’ which was made before the Great Famine, in Co. Clare.
It is these connections – the performance style, musicianship and composition histories – that make Camerata Kilkenny: The Piper and the Fairy Queen such an engaging CD. Not to be missed also is Marja Gaynor and Claire Duff’s charming account of Telemann’s Gulliver Suite for two violins, an example of eye music where the Lilliputian chaconne is written in teeny-tiny quasihemidemisemiquavers and the Brobdingnagian gigue is notated in great big semibreves.
Camerata Kilkenny: The Piper and the Fairy Queen was recorded in the wonderful acoustic of an eighteenth century Georgian house in Co. Kilkenny, resulting in a warm, accessible sound perfectly complementing the music. This new release from RTÉ lyric fm is a must for anyone interested in the musical traditions of Ireland and Europe.