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“He is a man for whom the notion of borders means very little, a genius whose music is without frontiers, and whose originality makes him one of the most innovative composers in any contemporary medium. He gives us a strong idea of our roots and besides points out a few possible roads we might take in the future.”
OLIVER SWEENEY HOT PRESS, DUBLIN
“Trailblazing… the category of ‘World Music’ did not exist when Antoni O’ began his musical journey. He was the first to combine Flamenco, Basque, Arabic and Irish elements, his virtuoso jazz-style piano uniting these traditions in remarkably original compositions …he gave the key structures to the show Riverdance”
FIONA RITCHIE, THE NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO CURIOUS LISTENER’S GUIDE TO CELTIC MUSIC, U.S.A.
“A vital visionary for the worlding of Irish music” …
“Pure sonic reverie”…
“A true musical visionary, one who not only sees through cultural barriers, he plows through them. For this composer, musical categories of genre, century and nation bear no restriction or limitation for his creativity—he brings all eras and cultures together in one musical space.”….
“O’Breskey’s musical crossovers have an ethical imperative as well. He seeks to mesh the majority with the minority, the present with the past, and the vocal with the silenced, so as to “deflate the ethnocentrism of classical Western music.” For this musician, musical cultures are not defined by borders, but by historical roots that reach deeply across all areas of the globe.
THE IRISH ECHO, BOSTON
“His style is unic and superb”
HARRY LONG, THE WALTON’S GUIDE TO IRISH MUSIC
“His music is a caress that obliges us to feel human at least for a few moments”
VOICE WORLD MUSIC, BARCELONA
“Long predates Riverdance”
FINTAN VALLELY, THE IRISH TIMES
“Ahead of his time…in 1979 Antoni O’ released a track called Sunrise, some of wich sounds almost exactly like Riverdance”
VICTORIA CLARKE, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
"That extraordinary Italian pianist Antoni O’Breskey was playing the kind of jazz/traditional mix popularised by Micheal O’ Suilleabhain before must of us had even begun to try to spell the Corkman’s name!”
GEOFF HARDEN, BELFAST NEWS
“Poet of music”
"A sailor of the earth for those who still believe in buried treasure.”
JAVIER RIOJO, EL PAIS, MADRID
“Against the uniformity and stupidity of most of today’s music without memory, as Milan Kundera defines it, the flag of Antoni O’ is raised: the hopeful witness of a personal and meaningful work”
INAKI EZKERRA, MADRID PRIZE FOR LITERATURE, EL CORREO ESPANOL
“One of the most exciting sounds we have heard in years”
“The last druid after the fall of Atlantis”
“A living monument to ethnic music”
“He is able to gather in his poetic imagination a glimpse of what the future may hold”
UMBERTO SAVOLINI, CORRIERE DEL TICINO
"O' Breskey is true musical visionary"
By Colleen Taylor - THE IRISH ECHO BOSTON
When music is complicated and inquisitive, chances are the mind behind it is equally vibrant. Such is the case with composer and musician Antoni O’Breskey, who allowed me a fascinating glimpse into the intricate workings of his creative mind. The title of O’Breskey’s latest musical project speaks to his work’s energy: “When Bach was an Irishman and Mozart a Gypsy Boy.” In this album, classical music dances a waltz and a jig with influences from Irish trad. O’Breskey told me he likes to think of his cultural work not as research, but as an adventure, and that’s just what his album is: pure, sonic reverie.
You may not recognize his name, but you will recognize what he has done for Irish music. Antoni O’Breskey helped pioneer the inclusion of the piano in Irish genres. A composer and multi-instrumentalist, he has been hailed by many of Celtic music’s most renowned musicians and artists, from Ronnie Drew and Andy Irvine to Scottish radio host Fiona Ritche, as a vital visionary for the worlding of Irish music. He stands as one of the trailblazers of the new age and world music phenomenon in Ireland and abroad. O’Breskey helped to lead the crossover of Irish and flamenco genres, later popularized by shows like Riverdance.
O’Breskey first went to Ireland in the 1970s, where he quickly met some forerunners in the folk music revival, like Ronnie Drew, and the rest was history. Within the last decade, some of his projects have involved the exploration of Irish music through the medium of a trumpet, trad-blues infusions, and the mixing of Irish song and Basque art. His latest album is a musical prance through classical music and Irish folk tunes. “Ireland for me,” O’Breskey says, “is like an extraordinary meeting point between North, South, East and West, and you can hear this very well in the music.” In his latest album, O’Breskey seeks to further explore these continental ties through a celebration of Gypsy music.
O’Breskey showed me he is a true musical visionary, one who not only sees through cultural barriers, he plows through them. For this composer, musical categories of genre, century and nation bear no restriction or limitation for his creativity—he brings all eras and cultures together in one musical space. He said with liveliness, “when uilleann pipes play a lament, I feel [I am] in an Indian monastery.
Sometimes I imagine all the instruments transforming into trumpets, trombones and clarinets and I can hear New Orleans Jazz. When many fiddles are playing in the Donegal style I can see in front of me J.S. Bach having a pint with Turlough O’Carolan.” O’Breskey is far better at describing the imaginative, transformative qualities of his music than I could ever be, so I will leave it to quotes like this one to color the qualities of his music.
O’Breskey’s musical crossovers have an ethical imperative as well. He seeks to mesh the majority with the minority, the present with the past, and the vocal with the silenced, so as to “deflate the ethnocentrism of classical Western music.” For this musician, musical cultures are not defined by borders, but by historical roots that reach deeply across all areas of the globe. “Music is like a tree,” he said, “without strong and deep roots, we will not be able to expand our branches to the sky.” He seeks to imbue the music he plays in the twenty-first century with the values and integrity traditional and classical music holds: “It is not just only about what you play or how you play, but how you live the music and what you do with it: communication, participation, sensuality, dance, rituality, and more are all aspects which traditional music still has.”
Ireland will forever be not only a creative home base, but a literal home base, for O’Breskey. One of his greatest friends was Ronnie Drew, a man who sealed his lifelong romance with the nation and its culture. I asked O’Breskey what kept him coming back to Ireland, and his answer was as profound an avocation for the cultivation of Irish music as I’ve ever heard: “Traditional music is still there and an incredible number of young musicians, even children, play this music which contains all the beautiful values of Irish life. For me, [that] is like spring water which I need, and I feel it is precious for our Western world. This is the main reason I cannot abandon Ireland.”
This Spring, O’Breskey will share his new project with the UK and Ireland in a tour that will culminate in Belfast with none another that traditional music legend Mairtin O’Connor in April. If the richness of O’Breskey’s language and musical ethos hasn’t intrigued you, perhaps his songs will. You can listen to “When Bach was an Irishman and Mozart a Gypsy Boy” and learn more about O’Breskey’s fascinating career at nomadicpiano.com. You can also find his music on bandcamp.
Javier Riojo - El Pais, Madrid:
“He vanishes each morning
at the first rays of dawn
and re-emerges at night
amid the myriad worlds
that emanate from his piano.
is back in Madrid.
This Italian who loves
to be Etruscan,
who sees himself
in the Irish countryside
distilling his whisky at
this Irishman who aspires
to be a shepherd singing
on the rocks
of Mount Txindoki,
the heartfelt lustre of gypsy
song…The Crusoe of every
desert island, in search
of impossible Edens following
the trail of lone seagulls.
A visionary musician who
reconstructs the remnants of
them into music,
A messenger from
a Florentine without a
homeland, his voyaging
aground in a city
without seas and here
smoke and beer
of the pubs,
seas and sirens
are created, magic stones
and ancestral vision pass
through his piano…
to us inland
for a moment,
the unbounded ocean, the
tumults of the soul.
Antonio Breschi is back
in this city that we have
navigated to its
in this city full
of life ‘til dawn, of love on
the metro, of song in the
frail light of daybreak,
of shadow and the dark
glances of girls…
He is back in Madrid
to enchant us
with the unthinkable
dreams of a
Beneath his beard
is hidden the
voice of distance;
his eyes hides
of the Celts…
a sailor of the
earth for those