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The Songs of Robert Burns, Vols. 5 & 6

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Album Review

Jean Redpath was undoubtedly the finest and most influential singer of traditional Scottish music when she made her groundbreaking seven-LP series of Robert Burns songs for the Philo label in the mid-'80s. In 1996 they were reissued on CD to commemorate the bicentennial of Burns' death. Both the original releases and the reissues would be cause for great celebration for lovers of this repertoire, except that the instrumental settings within which Redpath sings are rather idiosyncratic. All are the result of extensive research by the composer Serge Hovey, who determined which melodies Burns had intended for each song; Hovey then composed chamber ensemble arrangements based on those melodies. Some of them are exquisite — the stark and lovely string orchestra setting on "My Nannie, O" is the perfect accompaniment to Redpath's smoky mezzo-soprano voice, and the arpeggiated piano part on "Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots" works beautifully as well. But, too often the accompaniment calls too much attention to itself, distracting both from the songs and from Redpath. This is particularly true of the bravura piano on "Killiecrankie" and the off-kilter flute and piano parts on "O, This Is No My Ain Lassie." Recommended, but with reservations.


Born: April 28, 1937 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Blessed with a sweet but slightly roughened mezzo-soprano as gentle as mist and haunting as the highlands, Jean Redpath was one of the definitive interpreters of Scottish traditional songs. She was also a noted folk music ethnographer who played an important role in the reconstruction of nearly forgotten Scottish songs and was a lecturer at Scotland's Stirling University since 1979, and also lectured regularly at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and other prominent institutions, including...
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The Songs of Robert Burns, Vols. 5 & 6, Jean Redpath
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