Ithaca Times
Vol. XIX / No.19 / December 1996

Soundcheck - review

The Pulse of an Irishman

Celtic folk tunes with a classical flavor? Sounds like another crossover marketing ploy, but back in 1809 they didn't have to hire a hack arranger to reconstruct how Auld Lang Syne would have sounded had Beethoven written it. They could get Beethoven himself. In all, Beethoven arranged over 180 Irish, Welsh and Scottish songs, 21 of which have been included on this new release featuring five of the Southern Tier's best and brightest young singers.

Steven Stull, Kimberly LaGraff, Timothy LeFebvre, Linda Larson and Todd Geer have become familiar figures on the stages of the Ithaca, Tri-Cities and Syracuse Operas and are versatile enough to be a welcome presence in the Broadway repertory. It's the combination of strong classical technique combined with ease and naturalness of expression that make this disc such a pleasure to listen to.

Steve and Timothy blend hauntingly in the wistful Farewell Bliss and Farewell Nancy , Todd adds his verve to the charming Sally in Our Alley (my personal favorite), Linda sings sensitively about Faithfu' Johnie , and the whole group joins on an uptempo version of Auld Lang Syne , a sprightly alternative to what one usually hears on New Year's Eve. The instrumental accompaniment, played by pianist Kathy Hansen, violinist Brian Brooks and cellist Laura Kramer, bears the clear imprint of Beethoven's personality. This disc will fill a gap in the Beethoven discographies of most classical listeners, and Celtophiles may also find that these alternative takes on the traditional tunes are, like Sally, right up their alley.

Review by Mark G. Simon