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TONY MACMAHON - Farewell To Music

TONY MACMAHON - Farewell To Music
Raelach Records RR011

Born in 1939 in Ennis, Co. Clare, Tony was for many years renowned for his skilled playing of the humble button-accordion, with a speciality of interpreting slow airs, but in 2014 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which effectively signalled an end to his playing (and recording) career - a career that had always been confused by Tony’s lifelong lack of confidence in his own playing and, unbelievably, an emphatic professed hate of his own instrument… and not that his recorded output had ever been anything but minimal and sporadic. Furthermore, there’s since been some contradiction of the accuracy of the above diagnosis, although Tony continues to struggle with bipolar disorder and dystonia.

The album Farewell To Music might be described as the ostensible magnum opus, the major artistic statement that Tony has always needed to make; it was (painstakingly) recorded during 2009, after the “gentle but persistent persuasion” of fiddle player Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, whom Tony had mentored over more than a decade. Taking its title from the celebrated O’Carolan tune, Farewell To Music is an extremely poignant valedictory collection consisting exclusively of slow airs (13 of them), and straightaway gives the lie to anyone who says the accordion is incapable of sensitivity. The listener hangs on every note, and in every case the music fairly continues to resonate long after that note has died away. There’s no respite from the unrelieved slow, measured tempi – and nor does there need to be, for this is glorious, powerful playing that squeezes (pun not intended) every drop of emotion from these ageless melodies; at the same time stark yet lush-textured, with an unerring precision and a beauteous, unparalleled sense of poise.

Time stands still in this parallel universe, its own eternal sense of ebb and flow generated by the pull and push of the accordion (although the disc’s unique and intense aura will not suit everybody). Caoimhin’s succinct, heartfelt tribute serves as the only sleeve-note, since the music quite literally speaks for itself.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.