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Stivell revives Breton's Celtic heritage

By Alan Stivell

Disques Dreyfus: 1997

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This review first appeared in the October 18, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

Celtic music is most usually associated with the Scottish or Irish (or, occasionally, Welsh). But as the scattering of red hair throughout Europe attests (the gene that causes red hair has been traced back to the Celts and only the Celts), the Celts were a randy bunch who got around. And so harpist Alan Stivell, from Brittany, has spent his adult life trying to reconstruct Brittany Celt music, which disappeared under French rule.

"ZOOM" is a two-disc anthology of Stivell's career, going back 27 years. With (obviously) no recordings or even surviving sheet music of traditional Brittany music, Stivell has borrowed heavily from Irish, Welsh and Scottish sources.

At times – too often, really – the music seems forced, as if Stivell is overdoing the effort to resuscitate his heritage. But there are also moments of real beauty here, and this is a fairly comprehensive overview of his work.