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  • chrisdumigan

Michal Hromek  : Celtic Guitar : CD



TRADITIONAL: First Two Pieces from Turlough O’Carolan – Shebeg and Shemor No1  and Mrs. McDermott ; Two more O’Carolan Pieces – A Tune Without Title and Planxty Burke; Two Irish Ballads – Fanaid grove and Down By The Sally Garden; Three Pieces By O’Carolan – Lament for Owen Roe O’Neil/ O’Carolan’s Cup/O’Carolan’s Quarrel With The Landlady ; An English Song with an Irish Jig- Once I Had a Sweetheart / Blarney Pilgrim ; Dorian Song – The Trees They Do Grow High; Shebeg and Shemor No2 : HROMEK : Suite a) Prelude b) Pilgrimage c) March;  HROMEK / P. KALINA : Mixolydian Song

Michal Hromek, (with other musicians)

Landy Star Music: NG 805

 The huge majority of these pieces is listed on the CD as Traditional, and is then followed by the words ‘O’Carolan’s pieces….’ I have kept the same descriptions as the CD Company did, but suffice it to say that the Turlough O’Carolan’s pieces are not traditional, they are his pieces!

That said, as any guitarist knows who has seen the many arrangements of this Baroque Irish harpist’s melodies, they are wonderful music. You may know that this blind harpist wrote down all his pieces, but only as melodies, no harmonies, no arrangements and therefore  everything in the way of accompaniment to the melodies is the work of someone else, but let it be said that these are great arrangements and match beautifully the amazing melodies of O’Carolan, who managed to live in the Baroque Era, taking some of that inherent style into his works, and yet also colouring them with traditional Irish folk elements too , which is what makes them so unique and also so wonderful to play , and in this case to listen to! So therefore the first two compilations of a total of 5 O’Carolan’s pieces are simply fabulous, so engaging and superbly caught in both performance and recording.

The three movement suite of Michal Hromek’s is next, and again includes a number of extra musicians on harp, violins, woodwind, and percussion as well as Hromek’s guitar. The Prelude is quick, and still very Celtic in style, but in a slightly more modern way, whilst the 2nd movement Pilgrimage is slow and haunting in its first section before gathering speed in the middle , only to return to the sad opening at the close. This is lovely contrast to the Prelude. There is a large part for the woodwind here too. The final March begins on guitar harmonics before the other instruments enter, and even has some moments where singers are singing harmonies in the background .Again this is a great piece of writing and playing, and fits beautifully with the other folk pieces. The two Irish Ballads that follow the Suite, Fanaid Grove and Down By the Sally Gardens are solo pieces and the arrangements are fantastic. The way he colours the melody of Down by the Sally Gardens with its other background melodies and harmonies is gorgeously done and I would LOVE to see the sheet music! Has anyone published it??

The three pieces of O’Carolan that  begin with the Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill are, apart from the last minute and a bit,  a set of solos on the harp giving us, perhaps, a feel of how O’Carolan originally imagined these pieces, for they really do sound beautiful on something close to their original instrument. At the very end of the final piece of the three, the whole band enters to close this track.

Once I Had a Sweetheart and the Irish Jig of Blarney Pilgrim work really well together, with the guitar solo portions intermingling with the band in a very effective way.

The other original work, Mixolydian Song is another lovely piece of writing involving the band again and fits in very well with the folk harmonies of the rest of the album, coming as it does from the same sound world. The Dorian Song that is The Trees They Do Grow High begins with a woodwind solo accompanied by the guitar, before the pair interweave in what is essentially a duet for the two of them.

The final track is the 2nd version of O’Carolan’s Shebeg and Shemor and is slow and emotional and full of lovely sounds and is therefore another fine track, which here closes this stupendous album in a great way.

I cannot stress enough what a wonderful sound world this album inhabits. The band arrangements are a real knockout and Michal Hromek’s guitars playing is just as wonderful, and only go to show us, if you didn’t know already, how unique these pieces really are. One of my very favourite albums I have ever reviewed.

 

Chris Dumigan

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