Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), a blind poet and harpist, was one of the most famous Irish bards, and his songs and tunes are among the best known in the Gaelic tradition. He was also aware of more formal musical traditions of France and Italy, so some of his pieces have a surprising sophistication. In this collection of music by O'Carolan, harpist Andrew Lawrence-King is joined by the ensemble he formed, the Harp Consort, which is made up of singers and a variety of folk and early instruments, including shawm, flute, recorder, Renaissance bagpipes, gamba, theorbo, harpsichord, guitar, whistle, percussion, and psaltery. Lawrence-King is without peer as an Irish harpist, so his playing and conducting of this repertoire should be a strong interest to any fans of Gaelic music. In spite of the size of his ensemble, Lawrence-King uses mostly solos and small ensembles, so the prevailing mood is of gentleness and quiet melancholy, even though a few selections with larger groups are playfully rambunctious. The contributions of vocalist Caitríona O'Leary are especially attractive. The written sources of O'Carolan's music are so widely and wildly variable that the same tune may barely be recognizable from one collection to another, so no single version can be considered authoritative, but the musicality and soulfulness of these performances have strong appeal. The sound is clean and immediate.
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