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Stockfisch Records SFR35741052 

It was at the age of 17 that guitarist Jens Kommnick (who lives in Germany) first experienced the music of Ireland and Scotland. He has been keen on Celtic music ever since. Indeed, in 2012, he became the first (and only) German musician ever to win the All Ireland Championships - not only once, but twice. His playing nimbly mixes classical, Celtic and jazz. He has played in groups such as Iontach, Limerick Junction and Lá Lugh, and in numerous collaborations (having played on over 80 CDs). This is his fourth solo album, and it is the kind of a release that is likely to make listeners look up his back catalogue.

Kommnick plays with openness and grace, not needing to fill every moment with a flurry of picking, often relying more on precision and technique than on speed alone, though the bouncing delight of a track like Christoph’s Dance shows that he can certainly hustle on the guitar. Overall, there is calmness in pieces like Born An Angel or Lights On The Ocean, and soaring ensemble instrumentation on The Bride’s Wedding Dress / The Wedding Schottishe, which channels classical and baroque traditions. And his closing track slows down the Irish chestnut, The Morning Star, to further explore the stately beauty of the tune.

Most of the tunes are original, though there is a lush John Dowland piece. Kommnick offers us lullabies, gavottes, airs, waltzes, schottisches, reels and plenty of wistful palettes. He plays mostly solo guitar, but on some pieces he also chooses from fretless bass, mandolin, bouzouki, piano, harpsichord or cello. The recording has a crisp and full sound, with lots of acoustic presence. The CD also includes a striking booklet with rather edifying liner notes.

Sometimes solo guitar can be an unlikely bouquet of curious chords and spiralling runs. On Stringed, Kommnick provides a strong sense of melody and purpose throughout the pieces. This is solo guitar work you can hum along to, with playing of great delicacy and skill.

Ivan Emke


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine