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HARP HOUSE HarpHouse Records HHCD001

St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, was the setting for this live recording of the harp world's most accomplished players - all participants in the 23rd Edinburgh International Harp Festival in April 2004. Corrina Hewat produced this, the first commercial recording in the Festival's history, with Scottish Arts Council funding.

The sound is excellent (credit to Dave Gray); it does full justice to the magnificent acoustic setting and the harp's bright resonance. There's huge tonal and rhythmic variety throughout the album, and here you'll find dance tunes, slip jigs, slow airs, puirt-a-beul, chant melodies, strathspeys and reels. Here too is an amazing range of harps: electro-acoustic pedal, wire strung Celtic; Welsh, Scottish, Gaelic and Irish harps, and, of course the Clarsach. More exotic still are the Arpa de Dos Ordenes, a cross-strung chromatic harp from Spain, and the Paraguayan harp.

The additional acoustic instrumentation on tracks by Crasdant, Calluna, Isobel Mieras and Cliar (fiddle, guitar, flute, and piano) lends oceans of vivacity. Park Stickney/Rudiger Oppermann give 'Butterfly/Metamorphosis' the jazz treatment on pedal and wire-strung harp. Kike Pederson plays 'Duende De La Selva' with lyricism and elegance on Paraguayan harp. Nuria Llopis Areny performs a dark, intense composition. There are some beautifully lyrical pieces by Karen Marshalsay, Grainne Hambly, and Ann & Charlie Heymann.

Eddie McGuire's excellent commission for clarsach and organ, 'Parallel Dimensions,' is over 15 minutes long and the climax to this album; its heavily improvised opening builds into a vivacious dance tune. Catriona McKay and Simon Nieminski excel here - I have a mental image of these two musicians having lots of physical space between them whilst performing this piece.

This is the perfect opportunity to hear the tonal permutations of the harp in imaginative arrangements - it's an inspiring, beautiful recording which offers much listening pleasure.

Debbie Koritsas