Reviews of Melangell
Irish Music Magazine Vol.6 No.1 August 2000
'Such is the beauty of melody and perfection in the performance one is almost bereft of words to express adequate appreciation.'
'Llio is first and foremost a creative artist of vision and integrity who has the ability to transport the listener to their own private, intimate place. Her music does not possess the listener; rather, it liberates them.'
This Welsh triple harpist brings early-music fragrances to her intricate cascades of pin-like notes in luscious settings: plygain carol tunes; playful sword-dances; her pompish little tribute to her teacher Nansi Richards; the heart rending Dafydd y Garreg Wen (died 1749); her top-string frenzied penillion tune, Y Bard Yn Ei Awen; or the cute small-harp lullaby, Gorweddwch Eich Hun. Welsh to me is like a sharp tap to the typographical region of the brain, so Rhydderch sent me a diagram tracing herself back through 18th century harpers to 6th century traditions. So if you're ever browned off with O'Carolan, here's another deep repertoire in a folk style which is just, simply, so beautiful.
Cambria Magazine Vol.3 No.6 Autumn 2000
Llio Rhydderch's latest CD Melangell continues a rich vein of Welsh traditional harp playing and is probably the most representative recorded collection to appear this year. It is a fine example of creative ingenuity and unrivalled technicality. There is a rare,, enduring beauty in her music - refined sophistication that comes from the very wellspring of the tradition. This is a wonderful compilation recording, demonstrating the kind of maturity and composure in style and repertoire that devotees of harp music have come to expect from Llio following her debut album Telyn (Fflach CD 196H 1997) which took the world of Welsh music by storm and proved uncompromisingly that the field of triple harp playing in Wales has immense potential.
Melangell is not merely a re-presentation of the well worn, clichéd repertoire which is often associated with the harp in Wales - rather, it celebrates the distinguished versatility of one of its finest exponents in a colourful array of new and old airs and variations. This recording too, provides a platform for an up-and-coming generation of performers (Glesni Haf Arfon, Elin Wyn Jones, and Catrin Mair Jones - Llio's pupils) who contribute to the controlled ensemble playing on several of the tracks.
'Tune for Nansi -a pupil's tribute' is one of Llio's original compositions and a fitting accolade to Nansi Richards Jones - Queen of the Welsh triple harp. 'David of the White Rock' appears with a newly fashioned set of variations to commemorate the death of the legendary Dafydd whose heart-rending air has stirred audiences the world over. 'Trefforest Walt,' and 'Three Yellow Sheepskins' are both dance tunes drawn from the historical repertoire but skillfully presented here in a new guise, while Malltraeth Cob' and 'Beautiful Lisa ' are traditional vocal airs associated with Llio's native Anglesey.
'The Queen's Dream' is undoubtedly the highlight of this recording - performed with such emotional intensity and passionate drama. It forcibly consolidates Llio Rhydderch's singular position as one of Wales's outstanding executants. With an eye to her next production, she is constantly on the lookout for new tunes and avidly researches the field. Accordingly, her repertoire, as displayed in Melangell, is rich, extensive and consummately tasteful.
No.210 December 2000
Not to have heard Llio Rhydderch is to have missed out on a big chunk of the culture of the British Isles. To draw parallels, imagine if Carolan or Robert Johnson were alive today and playing at the height of their powers.
Not only is she a brilliant triple-harpist in the unbroken Welsh tradition, but she is a high point of that tradition, with playing that's ongoingly fresh, creative and impeccable, exploring and improvising around strong traditional and her own melodies, expanding them into tightly-structured, flowing pieces of music that continue to' change each time she plays them...
The triple row of strings allows fast reiterative techniques and an incisive playing style far from that of most players of the gilt-laden pedal concert harp which somehow muscled in on the Welsh eisteddfod scene. The album's clear and upfront production by Ceri Rhys Matthews and Owen Thomas brings out the bright guttiness of Llio's tall, shapely highheaded instrument, and she has a particularly finely-developed sense of pitch, tuning by ear to intonations which ring together better for the scales she uses than would compromisingly mathematical equal temperament.
The first album left one intrigued about the origins of the source material, and this time her booklet notes give some indication.
As on its predecessor, some of her young students join her here on a few tracks; their playing, and in particular Elin Wyn Jones' variations, show the effect of Llio's energy and generosity in making sure that her great tradition, largely ignored for many years, continues with a new generation.
The Living Tradition Issue41 January/February 2001
Melangell by Llio Rhydderch is without doubt the best recording of harp music since Nansi Richards. This is traditional music at it's best. Beautifully arranged and played with all the skill, flair and sensitivity that the triple harp demands. Llio Rhydderch is truly a master musician. Stunning.
Arts Wales (Western Mail) October 31 2000
Rhydderch left the audience spell-bound by her own piece, the evocative musical poem about Bardsey Island whose (feminine) body is allegedly pierced by the burials of 20,000 Saints.
This complemented traditional Welsh folk tunes, both known and slightly obscure, offered with startling freshness and creativity.
Rhydderch's 15-year-old apprentice, Elin, joined her on stage in what was possibly an historical debut: the richness of six layers of strings being played together contrasted with Rhydderch's astonishing solo pieces.
"Your musicality and artistry wove a spell - it was as though I could see the dew sparkling in the strings of the harp. To watch you weave your songs on the strings was pure joy"
Sister Ann Prentice OSH
"Your music speaks to the soul and sings to the heart"
"A very special experience - presented with such care and clarity"
Nigel Morgan BBC NOW