Old Focus Recordings FCR921
The subtitle of this CD (“eighteenth-century arrangements of traditional Scottish songs”) is more helpful than the main title, as the back of the CD readily admits that any attribution of the contents to Mary, Queen of Scots’ ill-fated secretary David Rizzio is entirely bogus. Rizzio was a musician, a singer and a fiddler, but none of the music which survives from Mary’s reign can be associated with him, while later attempts to invoke his musical ghost are clearly spurious. So what we have here is a programme of 18th-century traditional Scottish tunes, attractively and idiomatically sung and played by Makaris, a period instrument ensemble based in and around New York. They take the same free approach to their sources as the Baltimore Consort, and like them, occasionally the results sound a bit overdone to me. However, like the BC there is a beguiling energy and integrity to the playing and singing which is very attractive, while Fiona Gillespie’s vocals have a particular charm and authenticity. For some of the vocal duets, she is joined by the equally persuasive Corey Shotwell. Mischievously, the inside of the CD wallet sports ‘press cuttings’ from the 18th century, making and undermining the case for Rizzio’s authorship of the wealth of traditional repertoire which found its way into print at this time. The self-evident attractiveness and inventiveness of this music, so idiomatically presented here, makes the desire to provide it with a Renaissance courtly pedigree puzzling to us. Though perhaps for all we know ‘Davy the Fiddler’ may indeed have passed some of his time at court playing the forerunners of some of these tunes!
D. James Ross