"all that harp
music should be"
Tristan Le Govic has taken his harp to Glasgow, to broaden his horizons and ours. One or two of the Breton melodies may be familiar: Kas A-Barh and Enez Eusa smack of Alan Stivell, and are beautifully handled here. Dan O'Keefe's Slide and Denis Murphy's Slide started at the right end of Ireland to join the Breton repertoire, but I was surprised to hear Mike McGoldrick's Whalley Range slip jig transferred to the harp. Fine as all these tunes are, the highlights of Awen for me are two of Tristan's own making: Le Songe D'Orianne and Piz Bihan.
The trilingual sleeve notes describe Le Songe D'Orianne as "The lament of a queen, half woman, half fish", and you can see the problem right there: how would she get comfortable on the throne? It's a simple melody, mournful and haunting, with gentle bass notes and subtle ornamentation, and for me it's absolutely stunning. By contrast, Piz Bihan pulls out all the stops for a modern pan-Celtic virtuoso performance: funky rhythms, damped chords, modal harmonies, set off by a central slow passage. Nicely presented, fresh and original, and powerful enough to need no accompaniment, Awen is all that harp music should be.
"a beguiling enigma,
and charming subtlety"
Awen is the second album from Brittany's Tristan Le Govic, an album of harp music with a beguiling enigma, and charming subtlety. The harp is an instrument that is fast becoming my favourite; I'm drawn to its winsome combination of sensitivity and nimble complexity, which are both facets that Le Govic demonstrates deftly. Borrowing from across the various Celtic traditions, the thread that binds Awen is telling throughout though never cliché, offering tunes from Ireland and Scotland as well as Le Govic's native Brittany, alongside a selection of original material.
A relentless repetition of low notes, plucked with a determined vigour create a menacing undercurrent to the opening track, Dañs Plin, with a persistent rhythm that maintains a degree of intimidation right through to the close of the track. There is an almost palpable degree of anticipation prior to each note on Le Govic's own composition, Le Songe d'Orianne, played with a poise that allows you to relish the build and fade of each individual note that lend themselves to this beautifully flowing and lyrical air.
Le Govic explores the diversity within the Celtic traditions with a couple of Irish slides providing a spirited frivolity, to be followed by the more stark determination of the traditional Scottish reel, On The High Road To Linton. There is also a Scandinavian detour on Ar Vag, Le Govic's own variation on a traditional Swedish tune, with its demanding melody and less intuitive time signature.
Ultimately it is Le Govic's own compositions that leave a lasting impression, and in particular the intensity with which Le Govic is able to express a sense of place and emotion. "The first golden ray of light coming through a sleepy forest after an autumnal rain" is the brief description that accompanies Glaz. These words alone conjure up powerful imagery, an imagery that is truly heightened by the evocative eloquence of the melody that they inspired.
There is much to enjoy about Awen, and Le Govic's world is certainly a pleasant and rewarding place in which to spend some time.
"a gorgeous tapestry"
If there was one word to describe Awen, Tristan Le Govic’s latest offering, it would be Gentle. In his hands, the Celtic harp laments, dreams and dances its way through this collection of original and traditional music. Included here are slow airs, slides, slip jigs and other tunes from Le Govic’s native Brittany, as well as Ireland, Scotland and even Sweden.
While the jazz-laced tunes Dans Plin and Piz Bihan show off Tristan’s great technical skill, it’s the gentle, slower pieces that really shine. Here, the true voice and soul of his harp can be heard.
Le Songe d’Orianne is the sumptuous lament of a mermaid queen, with layers as deep as the ocean she dwells in. On another original tune, Glaz, the listener is infused with the soft golden sunlight of the rain-drenched forest that inspired this piece. The album closes with the traditional Enez Eusa, a beautiful tune full of profound longing.
The solo instrument nature of Awen allows the listener to enjoy the breadth of sound the Celtic harp can produce, as well as the intricate nuances. Tristan Le Govic has created a gorgeous tapestry. This album is a “must-have” for Celtic harp fans, as well as those seeking an introduction to the “son Telenn,” the sound of the Breton harp.
"rarely has the Celtic harp been served so well"
Without a doubt, Tristan Le Govic is the first Breton to have a name in the small world of Scottish harp players, and therefore to have a career in the country. He is based in Glasgow since three years and teaches the Celtic harp in the city’s schools. Nevertheless, he came back to us this summer for a music tour, travelling across Brittany in order to present his second CD, Awen. It is not easy for any solo instrumentalist who turns up to captivate an audience. But, once more, Tristan succeeds in this challenge. And this, in that case, highlights the excellence of his playing, and even more his maturity as a composer, drawing inspiration from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and Sweden, mixing traditional and new tunes, combining classical and jazz influences, creating the “Telenn sound” that he claims. Last but not least, the superb recording was signed Pascal Lamour. In every respect, rarely has the Celtic harp been served so well.
"Awen reveals one of the great in Celtic harp"
A discreet career among a large audience, but already with a recognition distinguished by several prizes and a presence at the most important Celtic harp festivals: Tristan Le Govic entrusted the recording of his second album to Pascal Lamour. The result is remarkable in its purity, its neatness, in the delicacy of the sound. One has to say that Le Govic’s musicianship (in traditional tunes, arrangements, compositions) is as subtle as it is original in his research of the “Telenn sound”: developing melodic lines on deep baseline. Awen reveals one of the great in Celtic harp.
"This CD has a rare aesthetic quality"
His notes are light and clear but Tristan Le Govic, of Lorient, brings depth to music of the Celtic harp. Dasson ur Galon is an exquisite suite for the instrument, filled with very personal tunes, tinged with nostalgia, but blended with cheerful dances (gavotte, laridé). This CD has a rare aesthetic quality, delivered by a perfectionist musician.
"Sobriety, clarity, purity"
Sobriety, clarity, purity are some of the words naturally associated with Tristan Le Govic's skill on the Celtic harp. In his first solo CD, the Lorient-born shares the "Heart's Echo", translation from Dasson ur Galon. He beats the rythms of the dances of the Pays Vannetais and Pourlet. Ireland, from where he picked up some traditional tunes, and Iceland, for which he composed a melody, also inspire the young instructor.
"an artistic personality of the finest degree"
Tristan Le Govic's first CD affirms an artistic personality of the finest degree in composition and performance. His is a nimble and subtle technique, playing in a variety of tempos and variations. The dance tunes balance intimacy with vivacity. His rendition of O' Carolan's Eleanor Plunkett recaptures the pathos through contrasting slow playing with detached notes. The March of the King of Laois displays a typical treatment, which provides a striking comparison with the vivacious and triumphal version by The Chieftains.
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