various artists,
Ceól Na Píoba - Píob Mhór
(Greentrax, 2000)

Ceól Na Píoba, a Highland bagpipe concert, was recorded live on August 30, 1999, at the 1999 Edinburgh International Festival. The six pipers involved are Allan MacDonald, Roderick Macleod, Barnaby Brown, William McCallum, William MacDonald and Robert Wallace. All are champion pipers of one form or another.

The liner notes with this CD include a scholarly dissertation on the differences between ceol beag (small music) and ceol mor (big music). Ceol beag is the form with which most of us are familiar, while ceol mor is sometimes referred to as classical music for bagpipes. Individual pieces are referred to as "pibroch," which consist of a theme and variations.

This CD is comprised entirely of examples of ceol mor that have been reconstructed from centuries-old manuscripts that were themselves attempts to preserve music that had been handed down orally.

It's very educational. The only problem with this CD is that it's boring. The music seems to meander. The drones and the dissonances of the higher pipes against them is enough to give one a headache of truly classical proportions. Perhaps that is why the music is referred to as ceol mor -- it refers to the size of the listener's headache.

Don't get me wrong; I love bagpipes. Unfortunately, I had a great deal of trouble picking out each pibroch's theme, let alone the variations -- and I was listening for them. It all just seemed to run together into one big noise, hence the headache.

Unless your interest runs to music history, I'd give this one a miss.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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