Alison Melville

She's Sweetest When She's Naked

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The irresistible title of this disc is just one of the intriguing Scottish songs presented here in flute transcriptions by Scots-Canadian Baroque flutist Alison Melville. Some of them, such as Fy gar, rub her o'er with straw, she explains in her enthusiastic and detailed booklet notes, but the listener is left to guess at the meaning of A rock and a wee pickle Jon. No matter. The disc is full of characteristically Scottish tunes transcribed by composers of the period for the flute (actually much of the music was marketed as being for violin or flute), either solo, accompanied by a continuo, or in a few cases with bodhran drum. You can listen to it from that angle, although the tunes were regularized somewhat by the transcription process; this isn't an album of traditional music, although the variety of old songs included ought to be of considerable interest to Scots "trad" fans. This is not the main point of interest, however. The music Melville unearths, some of it working on her own in the National Library of Scotland, represents a continuum between traditional and cultivated styles that's just beginning to be explored in recordings of music from the eighteenth century. This continuum was particularly important in Scotland and Ireland, where an impulse toward cultural preservation formed the basis for what is now known as the folk music of the British Isles. But it existed in every country; the dance rhythms of the Baroque started out among common people. Melville's examination of the continuum has just the right balance. In addition to her Scots tunes, several of which have attractive little variations attached, she offers sonatas in Italian style and several suites, each of which is fascinating in its way. James Oswald's The Seasons, which is just excerpted, is not in the Vivaldian mode but is a collection of multi-movement evocations of relevant plants. From the Autumn set Melville performs "The Sneez-Wort." Fy gar, rub her o'er with straw has a unique shape: the tune is presented at the beginning, with variations, and a short suite of French-style dances follow. The pieces in a purely Italianate shape nevertheless retain plenty of Scots melodic and rhythmic traces, and putting them in this context brings them out beautifully. The program, perhaps similar to one an audience of Edinburgh merchants might have heard around 1750, is pretty much exemplary -- educational and fun -- and Melville is engaging both as a player and as an investigator.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
4:27
The Duck's Foot, for violin (or flute) & continuo (from "Airs for the Four Seasons", The Spring)
2
1:39
3
1:47
4
3:01
5
2:14
6
1:54
7
1:45
Sonata No. 12 for violin & harpsichord in B major
8
1:30
9
1:13
10
1:00
11
2:16
Heather Bells, for violin (or flute) & continuo (from "Airs for the Four Seasons", The Summer)
12
1:26
13
1:31
14
0:27
15
2:30
16
1:53
17 2:33
Sonata da camera ("Fy Gar Rub Her")
18
2:32
19
0:56
20
0:42
21
0:53
22
0:55
Sonata No. 10 for violin & harpsichord in G major
23
1:21
24
2:28
25
0:55
26
1:14
27
2:23
28 3:09
29
2:17
The Sneezewort, for violin (or flute) & continuo (from "Airs for the Four Seasons", The Autumn)
30
1:10
31
1:49
32
1:12
33
1:43
34
2:01
35
0:45
blue highlight denotes track pick