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SEÁN Ó RIADA - Mise Éire

SEÁN Ó RIADA - Mise Éire
Gael Linn CEFCD080 (1979, re-released 2005)

This Gael Linn re-release, part of their project to provide recordings from their back catalogue to the public, contains scores from three films from 1959-1966 composed and conducted by Ó Riada. Performed by the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, the pieces have a definite soundtrack feel to them, but Ó Riada has incorporated many traditional tunes and elements into each score. The pieces have been organized by score, beginning with Mise Éire, followed by Saoirse? and ending with An Tine Bheo, each a unique, complete musical journey.

Míse Éire uses strings and brass in counterpoint to the military-style snare drums and at fifteen minutes is the longest of the three scores. Ending with soaring violins and clashing cymbals, the piece has a celebratory or victorious air to it. Although no information is given as to what the original film was about, the music stands on its own as a beautiful, evocative work. Hints can be gleaned from the translations of the Irish titles of the pieces, however.

Saoirse? (Freedom?) begins slowly before adding a darker, harsher sound that returns throughout. This piece is much more plaintive and melancholy than the previous one, bringing to mind images of despair. The use of drums summons up military connotations, with a march following. The final section is again plaintive, incorporating a section that is very reminiscent of taps. As with the previous, no information is given on the content of the film, but the music tells its own story.

The final score, An Tine Bheo (The Living Fire), heavily incorporates "A Nation Once Again" before taking on a joyous, playful tone. With the focus alternately on the brass and the string section, the music moves along at a jaunty pace, develops a tragic air, before ending majestically.

This recording is an interesting look at some of the earlier modern music in Ireland and is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history, politics, film or music of mid-19 th century Irish composition. It is also a great listen.

Jean Price

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.