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Concert for Highland Bagpipe, Tin Whistle, Percussion and Pipe Organ by Duo Contrario i.e. Herbert Bartmann (GHB, Scottish smallpipes, tin whistle and drum) and Thomas Blum (organ). GEMMA DC21052000

Web site www.duo-contrario

This is an unusual album. The combination of pipes and organ initially requires a period to adjust the shell-likes to the sonorous, piercing, clinical, baroque bagpiping juxta- posed with the majestic, evocative, depth and tone of the church organ.

Thankfully, and it does not take too long, Bartmann and Blum’s musicianship and tech- nique either wins you over by track 3, or, if you still do not like it, will leave you astounded at their audacity in delivering such an innovative, approach.

While many of their contemporaries turn to the latest technology in their search for newer digital sounds Bartmann and Blum have plundered the past and reaped a rich harvest of analogue sound.

From the opening track one to track twenty-five, Blum, the organist, is impressive. His atmospheric playing is on a continuum that ranges from moody to magnificently triumphant and serves to slightly soften the sharper, more piercing chanter sound.

Bartmann has easily transferred his learning skills and experience from the great pipe to the smallpipe. On track 18 he stamps his authority with an opening flourish of rippling bubbling notes. The rest of this track just gets better and better.

This may not be a CD to suit everyone’s immediate tastes. However you might want to consider spending some time allowing this CD time to grow on you and mature and you will be pleasantly rewarded. The inclusion of a web site is of tremendous help as it enables you to listen before you buy as well as listing their live gigs.

Jim Fraser.



Bag o’ Cats - Out of the Bag Greentrax Recordings LTD CDTRAX 193

Although not purely pipe music, this album places heavy emphasis on the Border pipes. Of the 11 tracks, 6 contain pipes. Fraser Fifield is the main piper, with Nigel Richard taking the odd holiday from his accompanying role.

Nigel, Dick [Lee] and Fraser have all written tunes for the pipes on the album and be- tween them have pushed the boundaries of pipe tunes as far from the Highland-style strath- spey and march scene as possible. The arrangements are very imaginative with a great deal of Eastern European and Asian influence. The time signatures and keys are constantly changing in a fluid torrent of music.

Highland, Cape Breton and even Border playing pipe styles are not to be found on this album and it is very refreshing to hear such high quality of playing breaking away from the Celtic tradition on this instrument.

The pipes first appear on the third track, Inverleith Park, a gentle air, in which they blend beautifully with the other instruments. This jumps straight into an Eastern number called Glen Kabul, full of enough cross fingerings and the changes in time signature to tie your fingers in knots. Track 6, (Popocateptl, the name of a volcano), was originally written


for a much larger piece of music for the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band to play.

It is a very descriptive piece of writing, full of musical twists and turns, even a sound that is not hard to imagine being the baying of cattle. Track 7, King of Laois, is the only traditional track, but this is just to remind the listener that home is not too far away, before jumping straight back into the fray of Eastern rhythmic and tonal mix.

In all, this album has not left my CD player since it’s arrival, a holiday for the ears, piping pushing the limits, encompassing traditions from other cultures and blending them in the most exquisite fashion, It is thoroughly recommended.

Vicki Swan