Film Review – Living the Tradition/Ilse de Ziah & Maarten Roos
Posted by R J Lannan on May 21, 2014 at 11:30 on Tradconnect
Ilse de Ziah- Irish Airs for Solo Cello | Review
It’s not every day we see a release of traditional Irish tunes that isn’t marketed at those clutching at their Irish roots. Mix this with an Australian cellist and you have a real treat for those not only interested in traditional Irish songs, but classical music lovers as well. Yet it’s not just Ilse De Ziah’s nationality that makes ‘Irish Airs for Solo Cello’ something special; the cello itself offers a new perspective on these traditional airs, and cleverly modern arrangements can only be seen as a ray of light after the storm cloud that has been over our native songs.
From the onset of this ten track album it is clear that de Ziah is not only an extremely talented cellist, but arranger of great skill as well. It opens with Carrickfergus, a tune familiar to most. De Ziah offers a lot to the listener here; her emotive playing manages to dictate the sentiment of the song without the presence of lyrics. The arrangement also allows her to hint at the modern features to be experienced later in the album. Buachaille Ó’n Eirne, although it begins with a familiarity, soon becomes a haunting and mysterious piece created by plucking and the shrieking sound De Ziah draws from her cello. Like before, the warm colours in Aisling An Oig-Fhir created by a higher register shows that these contemporary arrangements can be as emotional as conventional ones. Fanny Power is given a contemporary twist with the repetitive bowing and a diverse structure.
Unlike some of the previous tracks Down by the Sally Gardens is a case of ’why fix something that isn’t broken?’. The tune is very much similar to the traditional one, yet de Ziah sees it break into something wonderful by increasing the speed and energy with which she plays before coming back to a more sombre and sustained sound. Again, an emotional roller-coaster. A stunning rendition of A Stór Mo Chroí reiterates that without the words these pieces are just as effective. And the long drones allow for a connection with the traditional roots of the song, allowing the listener to exit having experienced the highlights of both traditional and modern composition.
‘Irish Airs for Solo Cello’ is not your average combination of Irish tunes. De Ziah offers more than the ‘diddly aye’ that some of these tunes have been subjected to in the past. Throughout it is obvious to hear, not only her skill, but her passion for these airs – it’s not just a desire to please a handful of tourists. She manages to gives the listener a fresh outlook on the songs we may well be long fed up of, by giving them a modern twist and a new heart.
“This book includes new arrangements of nine beautiful traditional Irish Airs, plus one original composition. All works are clearly typeset, with detailed (and stylistically appropriate) ornamentation. In addition, each solo includes general information and performance notes, lyrics (where applicable), and in many cases a basic version of the melody for preparation and reference. Not only do these pieces provide the intermediate to advanced cellist with expressive, 'out-of-the-ordinary' performance material, but they also promote technical development through techniques and effects such as false harmonics, double stops, chordal pizzicato, ornamentation and left-hand pizzicato. The book also includes a fine CD of all works, performed by the composer.”
Stretto magazine September 2010 ANZCA Australia and New Zealand Cultural Arts Limited
“Cellists – Take note! This new collection of Irish melodies, arranged for cello by Ilse de Ziah, is a joy. Here we have ten airs, some well-known, others waiting to be discovered, but all singing gloriously in their new raiment. There is something here for everyone. Amhrán na Leabhar (The Song of the Books) maintains the simplicity and beauty of the original Kerry song, whereas one or two others use an exciting variational technique which will appeal to more advanced cellists. On the accompanying CD, the rich harmonics of Buachaill ó'n Éirne in Ilse's playing seem to make every word of this wordless performance speak a special music to us.”
Tomás Ó Canainn
Christ Church Cathedral gave their Coffee Concert audience a special treat with cellist Ilse de Ziah, a Connecticut born but Australian educated performer who now lives in Cork and plays with the Cork Symphony Orchestra. Her programme Irish Airs to Australian Fair was crowd-pleasing and her unusual arrangements of familiar Irish tunes created an expressive journey of styles and influences.
Her opening Carrickfergus was cold and lonely and caught the “black as ink” mood as the drone sound caught the heart – “I would swim over the deepest ocean” and de Ziah has crisscrossed oceans to share and expand her talents. Buachaill ón Eirne was beautiful and she sang her own love song Driftwood with contemporary folk touches.
Her arrangements were ambitious and interesting and O’Carolan’s Fanny Power was a gem glistening with grace and sparkle. Her Indian tabla-influenced piece caught the humidity, thunder and downpour.
Amhrán na Leabhar was very mournful, but she finished off an excellent concert with a jazzy song Chicken and Fox
Liam Murphy, Munster Express
"Milis is Ilse de Ziah on the cello and Niamh Varian-Barry on the fiddle, a duo of artists who handle their instruments like old friends, with enough charisma to charm the pants off the toughest crowd in downtown Franklin."
Irish invasion – VALERIE NUTT, Williamson Herald, Nashville, Tennessee