MERCHISTON CASTLE SCHOOL, EDINBURGH
A DOUBLE bill of solo harpists might seem a hardcore prospect for a general audience as opposed to the Edinburgh Harp Festival’s primary constituency, those attending its workshops by day, but both performers’ skill and breadth of expression dispelled any such apprehension.
Ireland’s Triona Marshall originally trained on classical harp but turned to traditional music and the Chieftains recruited her in 2003. Her set here comprised mainly venerable Irish material, plus a few Scottish tunes via the Cape Breton diaspora, all rejuvenated by her minutely nuanced phrasing, supple yet exact articulation and boldly hued, artfully syncopated left-hand chord.
Martin Portillo is one of Paraguay’s leading young virtuosos, on an instrument adapted from those imported by Jesuit missionaries. Its bright, metallic upper register and exceptionally loud bass end created a distinctively different sound to the Celtic harp, as did Portillo’s diverse selection of material – including original compositions, folk tunes, tango and salsa numbers – and thrilling technique, from sustained tremolo passages through quick-strutting dance rhythms to freewheeling improvisation.