(In a Circle)
The greatest musicians and singers in any idiom share three qualities: beauty of sound, compelling phrasing and emotional truth. That the Irish fiddler Martin Hayes is so blessed has been quietly evident for decades, whether in his duo with guitarist Dennis Cahill or in the otherworldly quintet that is the Gloaming. Irish music is, for Hayes, not so much about a preoccupation with authenticity, as excavating deep mysteries. This collaboration with the highly-credentialed New York string quartet Brooklyn Rider – chosen by Philip Glass to record his complete quartets – is the latest installment.
All but two of the pieces (one by Hayes) are Irish traditionals, scored by five arrangers to create string-quartet contexts in which Hayes’ glorious tone, emotional profundity and legato articulation of lines (nonetheless instilled with phenomenal momentum) all shine. The arrangements are as ingenious as the performances are breathtaking, with violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and cellist Michael Nicolas often crafting a limpid ensemble sound through which you absorb Hayes’ laments and gentle statements of joy. Port Na Bpucai is as potent as any music you will hear this