Concerto Caledonia - Fiddler Tam - The Sunday Herald

The Scots have always been dedicated collectors of folk-music. Huge anthologies of traditional airs and dances with their instantly recognisable rhythmic and melodic patterns have been compiled and added to over centuries. The reel, the strathspey, the Scots snap are all quintessentially Scottish and immediately recognisable as such. Much of our music, however. is not so nationally characterised; does not so obviously wear the tartan you might say. The excellent Concerto Caledonia devote this latest recording to the music of Thomas Erskine, the 6th Earl of Kellie or "Fidler Tam", as the eighteenth century student of Stamitz and the Mannheim style, contemporary of Haydn and Boswell, and rabble-rouser , was endearingly known to his close associates. Concerto Caledonia, directed by David McGuinness, play with great style, understanding and fervour, for this is music which, although European in manner, exudes an energy, sparkle and enthusiasm that could indeed suggest the Scottish origins of the Fidler Tam soubriquet. The symphonic Overture in C with its immediately catchy rhythms and the cheerful drive of the theatre-piece, Maid of the Mill, are prime examples of a new, and of the time, exciting style which Kellie introduced to Britain, while the delightful three-movement Quartet in A is quite possibly the most outstanding piece on the disc. Soprano Mhairi Lawson adds sensitive, silvery-voiced readings of a short concert aria and the composer's only song, Concerto Caledonia has done a wonderful job making available this superb, though rarely heard, distinctive musical voice of Scotland.

06 March 2005