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Ronn McFarlane, The Celtic Flute

09-04-2018 | By Roger S. Gordon | Issue 99

Ronn McFarlane The Celtic Flute

The lute is an ancient instrument with its forebearers having been traced back to 3100 BCE in Mesopotamia. Though a popular instrument during the Middle Ages, the lute reached its zenith during the Renaissance. While gradually falling out of favor after the Renaissance, the lute was still being widely used during the Baroque period. By the late 1700s the lute had pretty much disappeared from the music world. It did not reappear until the early music movement started in the second half of the 20th century.  

The Celtic Lute contains music of Irish and Scottish origins from the 18th century. Ten of the tracks are the performer's arrangements of the harp music of Turlough O'Carolan (1670 - 1738).  One track is the music of James Oswald (1711-1769). The other fifteen tracks are arrangements of traditional Irish and Scottish music that have come down through the centuries. The CD contains 56 minutes of music.

For those of you who have followed the Dorian and Sono Luminus labels since the 1980s you will recognized the name of Ronn McFarlane as his lute playing talent has been recorded on 36 albums from these two labels. Most of these CDs were either duets with other early music musicians or with ensembles such as Ayreheart or the Baltimore Consort. Of these 36 albums The Celtic Lute is his 9th solo album. His previous solo album was released in 2007. It has been a long drought for those of us who love and are mesmerized by his phenomenal mastery of the lute. The CD contains 26 tracks totaling 56 minutes.

So what is the album like? Sonically, it is a typical Sono Luminus release. This means the recorded sound does not get much better than this. Sono Luminus prides itself on the quality of their recording, mastering and production and they have the awards to show for it. If I close my eyes while listening, Ronn is seated fifteen feet in front of me. If I could hear him breathing it would be a near perfect illusion of the real thing. I can think of only a couple of other CDs, also recordings of solo instruments, in my music collection that invoke with this kind of realism.                

Music-wise, this is not a head-banging album. No surprise there. The lute does not do LOUD, though some of the tracks, such as Pipe on the Hob and The Stool of Repentance, will get your toe to tapping. However, most of the tracks are listening music. The soft, mellow sound of the lute is woven into intricate music patterns by a master lutenist. Sit back and relax. Let the music captivate you. Let it wash over you and leave the world behind. I find the music very relaxing.  Just the thing to listen to after fighting your way home through rush hour traffic.

Music of this sort is not for everyone. But if you are into early music or the lute, you will love this album.

Sono Luminus DSL-92225