Ensemble Galilei. Telarc CD-80536.
Lovers of all things Irish will enjoy this collection of mostly Celtic music played on traditional Celtic instruments and featuring the usual slow laments, pastoral ballads, and fast-stepping reels. If there appears to be a certain inevitable sameness about the program, it's probably because you're not a student of this particular genre or you've been listening to too much "Riverdance."
The five ladies who make up the Ensemble Galilei play fiddle, pipes, oboe, recorders, pennywhistle, Celtic harp, viola da gamba, percussion, and bowed psaltery. They sprinkle a little Marais and Corelli as well as a number of their own modern compositions into the otherwise conventional Irish and Scottish collection to produce a well-ordered mix of tunes. I liked the names of some of the newer songs as well as I liked the music: "Winter's Falling Light," "The Dance Goes On," "Under the Full Moon," "Home Fires," "The Burning of the Clavie," "Lake Skybelow," and "Aisling." Older melodies include "Scollay's Reel," "King of Fairies," "Old Grey Cat," "Sgt. Early's Dream," The Fair Maid of Barra," and "Dream Angus." I think you get the idea.
What sets this 2000 album apart from the hundred like it is twofold. First, there's the enthusiasm of the players themselves, who display a genuine love for the music they're playing, an uplifting spirit in their performances, and not-a-little fond sentimentality toward their work. Second, Telarc engineer Michael Bishop captures their music-making with an appropriate touch of hall resonance to produce a realistic ambiance that doesn't drown out the details of the instruments. The result is both intimately natural and sonically transparent. I admit that for me a tiny bit of this music goes a long way, but for connoisseurs of the art, the disc is skillful, professional, and pleasantly enjoyable.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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