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The Wishing Tree (GLCD1151) is a beautiful collection of original and traditional pieces which combine an Irish sensibility with classical and early music styles. From the first rich, sonorous tones of McGuire’s viola, the listener knows this album offers a departure from traditional genres. While his viola and violin playing are central to the warmth and reflection of a recording of predominately slow pieces and airs, these instruments are complemented by arrangements which include full string quartet, sparse piano accompaniment, and brilliant textural use of mandocello, double bass, harmonium, chimes and dumbeq.
Seamus McGuire grew up in Sligo in Northwest Ireland, and from early childhood played both classical violin and traditional fiddle tunes. While possessing the intonation, vibrato and other trademarks if a classically trained musician, McGuire’s broad musical interests and influences take this recording across genres, cultures and centuries. Included are compositions from his own country (a slow air by the renowned 17th Century Irish composer Turloch Carolan); a Basque Carol from Medieval times; Duo Concertante in D Op. 67 by the 18th Century German composer Louis Spohr; a breathtaking air composed in the 1970s for the well-known Shetland fiddler Aly Bain by one of his students; a tune by one of the leading figures in 20th Century Finnish Folk Music, Konsta Jylha; an undated Lebanese love song learned in Kuwait; and a 16th Century Flemish madrigal. The title poem of the same name written by Ireland’s leading poet, Seamus Heaney, was awarded a Nobel prize. The Wishing Tree, produced by Garry O’Briain (who also plays piano, mandocello, guitar and harmonium on the album), is an exciting crossover recording which will appeal to classical music listeners as well as to fans of traditional Irish slow airs and waltzes.
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