Nicola Benedetti's 'Scottish Fantasy' Released Amid Independence Debate

Sunday, August 17, 2014

As Scotland debates seceding from the U.K., the country is the subject of a new patriotic album by the violinist Nicola Benedetti. We'll sample that record and a new release of the Fauré Requiem as featured albums this week.

Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy
Nicola Benedetti, violinist
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Rory Macdonald, conductor
Decca
Available at Arkivmusic.com

The people of Scotland will be voting in a referendum on Sept. 18 on whether their country should become independent from the rest of Great Britain. The debate has been heated at times and there are no clear signs on what the future may yet hold. Into this debate arrives "Homecoming," Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti's new collection of music from her homeland. The violinist herself has declined to reveal her views on independence and makes no mention of it in her liner notes. She recently told the Evening Standard, "I get trolled about it all the time...People have to respect your private opinion." She added that because she's long been a London resident, as a result, doesn't feel as strongly about the referendum other national celebrities.

Political subtexts aside, the recording is anchored by a performance of Bruch's lush and virtuosic Scottish Fantasy. There are also arrangements of three songs by Rabbie Burns, including the well-known "Auld Lang Syne," and music by Phil Cunningham (the sprightly "Aberlady"), plus two traditional numbers: "Coisich a Ruin" and the 6/8 reel "Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond." Several of the selections feature folk arrangements and Benedetti gamely digs into a folk fiddling style. Below is a trailer for the album.

 

Faure: Requiem
The Choir of King's College Cambridge
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Stephen Cleobury, conductor

The Choir of King's College Cambridge first recorded Fauré's iconic Requiem in 1963 and has recently given it a fresh take on its own label. Joined by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and led by Stephen Cleobury, the choir performs a new reconstruction of the original 1889 liturgical performance. It employs a choir of men and boys, accompanied by period brass and string instruments and even the stops available to the original organist. The group's sound is distinctly English, smooth and impeccably tasteful. Singing the Pie Jesu is the treble Tom Pickard, in his final year as a chorister at King's College school. Canadian baritone Gerald Finley – who attended King's as an undergraduate choral scholar – delivers the baritone solos. As a complement, the album features the Messe Basse, sung here by the 16 trebles of the choir.

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