Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Celtic Dialogues, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle.
With its cavernous concert hall setting and erudite programme notes, the EIF’s bringing-together of revered Irish folk fiddler Martin Hayes and early music pioneer violist Jordi Savall in traditional tunes from Ireland and Scotland was always going to feel like a pretty serious, classical-style affair. There’s no doubting that they made for a fascinating and beautifully complementary pairing: Hayes’ astonishingly supple, clean fiddle playing, hugely expressive through his eloquent phrasing and tonal control, made an ideal match for Savall’s deliciously brittle, raw sound on treble and bass viols, his tunes heavy with intricate ornamentation.
They were joined by an equally starry line-up of accompanists: Andrew Lawrence-King on gently plinking Irish harp and the distinctive twang of the psaltery; Dennis Cahill giving sparse but articulate support on guitar; and Frank McGuire finding a bewildering range of sounds and rhythms in his bodhrán.
But with what felt like endless tuning between numbers, a constant back-and-forth of performers on an off stage to regroup in different combinations, and little sense of musical interplay (let alone fun) between the two main men, the whole event came dangerously close to feeling – well, a bit precious. It’s hard to imagine more exquisite renderings of their historical folk tunes, but the concert’s pace and format seemed a bit misjudged.
Published in The Scotsman on 11 August 2015
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