Reviews of Enlli
No.236 December 2002
In reviews of Llio Rhydderch’s previous two CDs, and in a feature about her in fRoots 189, I’ve probably used up most of the laudatory superlatives in the thesaurus. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this triple harpist from the island of Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in Welsh, indeed in British music. And the music keeps pouring out of her. While the previous releases consisted of her rich variations on traditional melodies, this time the melodic shapes that have been storing up in her head and hands over a lifetime, break free in their own right; most of this album consists of her own compositions. They’re classics, and it’s a masterpiece.
She has extraordinary technical skill and the recording quality is luminous, but what makes her music so magnificent is that through every development one can surely hear her thought processes in her feeling for a melody, which always sings out across the cascades of notes and in the thoughtful turns of variations. Her timing is perfectly judged, perfectly linked to meaning, neither strict tempo regimented, nor formulaically precious, classicised rubato. Just four tracks are built on traditional tunes, to which her melodic inventiveness gives new life; listen to what she does with the well-known Nos Galan (more widely known as Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly) or Llwyn Onn (The Ash Grove).
The central work of the album, comprising the first four tracks, is her Enlli Suite, which reflects on the landscape and history of the island of Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey, which is just off the slim finger of North Wales’ Lleyn Peninsula and is the resting place of many Celtic saints, and a place of pilgrimage.
The pictures aren’t just musical; the CD pack also includes a free DVD. It contains an eight-minute film of movie and still shots of the sea, wildlife and yellow-orange lichen-encrusted rocks and buildings of Ynys Enlli, set to the album’s opening track Enaid Enlli (Spirit of Enlli). Just the job for injecting a glimpse of fresh air and colour between between grey computing moments, as is the slide show sequence taken on the pilgrim route from Clynnog Fawr, down the Lleyn to the island. Unconnected to the Enlli theme there’s a short TV feature told with ingeniously animated slate scratchings, narrated in Welsh, with music played by Llio, about the 19th-century astronomer John William Thomas and the slate carvings of the Ogwen Valley in North Wales.
Also on the DVD are photos taken during the album’s recording in the light and airy Dreamworld studio near Wales’ south-western extremity. Some of these feature Llio’s teenage pupil Elin Wyn-Jones, a mightily promising, creative harper, who joins her on two tracks of the album (and who is, incidentally, to be heard playing and interviewed on BBC Radio 3 World onYour Street website.
Elin is likely to be a significant player of the next generation in the long line of harpers, each passing on his or her art and techniques by direct contact. In that great chain Llio Rhydderch is destined to be one of the most famous names, and here she is, not a legendary name of the past like, say Carolan in Ireland, but producing her finest work right now. There’s more information about the album and the background to the tracks, with some sound samples, at www.llio.rhydderch.freeuk.com. Fflach Tradd is at www.fflach.co.uk.
No.114 October/November 2002
Llio Rhydderch is a unique harpist in a Wales sadly too full of eisteddfodic elbow flappers, who in their prettiness often fail to reach the soul. With this third album, I am increasingly amazed by the breathtaking beauty, inventiveness and spirituality of her music.
Inspired by Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), the album is given another dimension with a DVD of a film shot by Meic Shoring; - the first Welsh traditional music on DVD Llio comes from a Centuries old line of harpers, who learnt their music by ear. Improvisation is an essential part of her style, but never more so than here where well very familiar melodies take on a freedom, and life of their own.
Llio continues the unbroken line of Welsh harping through her own teaching and one of her pupils, Elfin Wyn Jones, features on Enlli. What amazes is that Llio only came to public recognition and recording; after retiring from school teaching;. To keep that creativity through all those years is truly remarkable. She plays with the passion, freshness and romantic vision of a young woman coupled with the depth, confidence and calm (nor to mention the technical skill) of an older woman. This Is music of rare beauty.
School of Music, University of Bangor, Wales
Enlli - A Musical Pilgrimage
The survival of the triple harp and its repertoire in present day Wales, despite 19th century trends that favoured mainstream European instruments, is worthy of celebration. To-day this unique tradition stands four square on some of the world¹s leading concert platforms, representing Welsh musical activity in its most refined state as much as male voice choirs, Bryn Terfel and 4 part hymn singing. Nevertheless the sound of the telyn deires (triple harp) with its characteristic 3 rows of strings, is unquestionably personal and undeniably intimate. Technically this is not an instrument for the faint hearted and yet its dulcet tones can calm the most troubled heart.
Llio Rhydderch's entry onto the performing circuit came at a surprisingly late stage in her career. As one of Nansi Richards¹s foremost pupils her pedigree is guaranteed, she to-day enjoys an unchallenged reputation as Wales¹s finest and most exhilarating exponent on the instrument. Llio¹s personal revival followed the release of her first CD Telyn (CD 196H) on the Fflach Tradd label which in turn provided the inspiration for Melangell (Fflach Tradd CD 234H), an outstanding compilation album for triple harp with airs and variation hitherto unheard in Wales. For many, Llio¹s art draws from the depth of the Welsh indigenous tradition - she traces her musical lineage back to one of Anglesey¹s pre-eminent families of harpers - but for others, her innate ability to combine what is undoubtedly Welsh with her own creative flair gives rise to a unique product which deserves world wide appeal. Not surprisingly, the release of her latest recording Enlli (Fflach Tradd CD 250S) has captured the imagination of television and radio producers throughout the United Kingdom resulting in extensive coverage, concert tours, interviews, editorial profiling and workshops within the circle of the initiated and even beyond the harping world. Enlli is Llio¹s tour de force and a vivid musical representation of a pilgrimage along one of Wales¹ unspoilt peninsulas - Penrhyn Llyn - to remote Bardsey island which reputedly houses the graves of 20,00 saints. Hear the bells toll in Clychau Clynnog, retrace the well trodden paths in Llwybr y Pererinion and pause a while near Melangell¹s Well, Ffynnon Melangell to hear the echoes of Llio¹s earlier recording Melangell in three hauntingly beautiful variations. In keeping with the age old bardic tradition, Llio¹s protégé, Elin Wyn Jones, plays alongside her in an inspired set of variants based on Malltraeth and Pen Rhaw. This is no ordinary harp music - indeed, as listeners we are transported to the realms of the extraordinary. Steeped in legend Enlli draws on Wales's Mabinogion folk tales in Adar Rhiannon as well as the custom of New Year celebrations in Nos Galan. Listen carefully to Llwyn Onn (The Ash Grove) and you¹ll hear a rich tapestry of finely spun variation - of a kind rarely heard in traditional performing nowadays.
Conset Harri Prydderch is Llio¹s own composition and without a doubt, the highlight of the entire collection. Truly inspired, it exudes jovial flamboyance and displays the charisma and panache which characterises all of Llio¹s work. This is arguably the most outstanding CD of the year. It comes with an accompanying DVD and a rare opportunity, even for the most fervent Welshmen, to see the rugged beauty of Enlli (Bardsey island) to the sound of truly magnificent harp playing
Alfredo de Pietra
No 59 Dicembre 2002 p.12
La Nuovo Regina - The New Queen
She is the most appreciated exponent of the great Welsh Triple Harp. An unmatchable performer on the instrument, she is a sensitive and sophisticated composer. We are presenting her to our readers with two tracks on the accompanying CD which will not fail to convince you.
Llio is to-day universally acknowledged as the most innovative and skilful interpreter and composer on the Welsh Triple Harp. This Welsh harper has only received recognition during the last years but now she is held in high esteem by her colleagues. The Œbible¹ of traditional British Folk Music, Folk Roots, has written of her 'In Llio Rhydderch we can admire in all its splendour the living tradition of the old Welsh harpers. Llio is the most able and brilliant exponent of the triple harp'.
Llio Rhydderch¹s third CD, Enlli, has been released from which we picked the tunes for our sample. Llwyn Onn and Aber Lleiniog are the tunes you listen to on this month¹s sampler CD. We don¹t feel like analysing this precious album. Such is the beauty of the music and the perfection of the performance that words are inadequate. simply listen, close your eyes and imagine being on this little island off the Welsh coast.
La Prima Rivisita con CD di Musica e Cultura Celtica
New Sounds 2000 - Viale Lombardia, 47-Trezzo sull'Adda, Milano
for mind, body and spirit web site
Llio Rhydderch must be by far the most magical harpist alive today, and to hear her perform is to feel yourself in the presence of the legendary harpists of old. In composing the first four tracks on this CD, Llio Rhydderch allowed herself to be inspired by the spirit of Enlli, the Isle of Bardsey, which lies off the North Wales coast at the end of the Llyn Peninsula and has been a place of pilgrimage since the 5th century. Every note sparkles and glistens, and speaks eloquently of the peace of green hillsides, and of light reflected on the vast ocean. Sheer genius. The other tracks are equally beautiful and inspiring, and include four pieces based on traditional Welsh melodies, around which Llio Rhydderch performs her breathtakingly lovely improvisations. Besides the CD, you also receive a free DVD which includes an eight-minute film of movie and still shots of the sea, wildlife and yellow-orange lichen-encrusted rocks and buildings of Ynys Enlli, set to the album's opening track.
Source for traditional music web site by David Cox
Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey Island, is located at the tip of one of the most remote and beautiful peninsulas in Wales, the Lleyn, heartland of the Welsh language and culture. Beautiful Enlli, the traditional home of 20,000 saints, shimmers off in the distance from the Welsh outpost village of Aberdaron.
Ynys Enlli is also the subject of this wonderful journey on the Welsh triple harp by one of that instrument's finest contemporary players, Llio Rhydderch. This beautifully recorded work brings together experimental and traditional Welsh music for the harp, which -- along with the voice -- is most emblematic of that country's sound.
Rhyddrech is the inheritor of an unbroken tradition of Welsh harpers and a master of the instrument. This mostly solo, entirely instrumental album is a gem. From the first notes of "Enaid Enlli," the listener is in the hands of a genuine artist. She effortlessly moves through this experimental piece that has the dazzling effect of a waterfall in sunlight.
The experimental is offset by her settings of traditional tunes such as "Llwyn On" and "Nos Galan," or such pieces as "Conset Harry Pryderch" or "Ffynnon Melangell," which blend tradition with novelty. These are equally showpieces for her virtuosity and her artistry.
Rhydderch showcases an instrument that refuses, in her hands, to be relegated to past glories. On this, her third solo recording, Rhydderch and her instrument look ahead and take musical risks with an instrument often mistaken by observers as a relic of a kind of Welshness that time has passed by. On the contrary!
Included in the package is a bonus DVD featuring the isle of Enlli, including short films by Meic Shoring. Her label, Fflach, has put tremendous effort into promoting this beautiful work, and to their credit. This CD is truly to be enjoyed.