The members of Hesperus are outstanding musicians. They excel at bringing older music into the next century with their deft expressions upon early musical instruments. The traditional music on both Celtic Roots and Spain in the New World is fantastic fare, from beginning to end, illustrated by the mastery of Hesperus themselves.
If you’re into the Celtic folk music, then the offerings on Celtic Roots will be right up your alley. There are jigs, airs, and reels aplenty, both Irish and Scottish. As mentioned in the liner notes, Hesperus not only offer direct recital of traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, but they also look deep into the connection between the music of these countries and the music of England and America. The result is an album full of Celtic musical mastery, from the first track to the last. Most of the music hails from the aristocracy, but the countryside still flutters about the fringes of the album, and you’ll find yourself hard-pressed not to tap your foot. I was sitting with the King before the court in my living room, listening to the lutes and the dulcimers—Celtic Roots is that good.
The older Hesperus offering, Spain in the New World, is just as finely woven and balanced. The album’s subtitle, “Renaissance, Baroque and Native American Music from New Spain,” covers in few words the wealth of music offered on the disc. This earlier incarnation of Hesperus is just as studied and brilliant as the group on Celtic Roots. The music, aptly described by Scott Reiss in the liner notes, is “a creative synthesis and a true result of the encounter between two worlds [Old and New Spain].” The music is top-notch, containing instruments ranging from the viols to the baroque violin, the harpsichord to the recorder. It is, however, the fleeting soprano of Rosa Lamoreaux that highlights the tracks that aren’t simply instrumentals. Her voice is, simply put, beautiful, almost hauntingly so.
Any lover of Spanish or Celtic music will find something here to their liking. The musicianship is brilliant and the offerings fresh. For music lovers of the periods, you can’t go wrong.