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Hugues De Courson - Lambarena, Bach to Africa - 1995


The impulse behind this album, developed by Mariella Berthéas, was to create a tribute to Albert Schweitzer by bringing together the two musical traditions that are central to his life: the works of JS Bach and the musics of Gabon, where he dedicated his life to serving as a medical missionary in the city of Lambaréné. To call this a crossover album, however, would be to misrepresent it; this is not an intelligent synthesis of two disparate traditions. It is difficult to characterize the relationship between the two musical cultures. To say that the musics are "coordinated" falls short of the surprising spontaneity of the juxtapositions, but to say that they are "thrown together" suggests a randomness that underestimates the skill and artistry of the arrangers, Hughes de Courson and Pierre Akendengué. Bach's music and the musical traditions of Gabon co-exist without giving up their own integrity, and interact with varying degrees of obvious connection. The CD includes classically trained European musicians, 10 ensembles from Gabon, and several Argentine musicians, who worked together in the studio for many months to create the album. The most successful songs uncannily capture the underlying musical impulse common to the two traditions, and the result opens up new meanings, and sounds natural and organic. For example, it's amazing, on track 2, how well a traditional Gabonese song fits and overlaps with "Lasset uns nicht den Zerteilen," from the St. John Passion, and how they complement each other in their affirmation exuberant of life. On track 6, the simultaneous performance of a ritual that includes a pattern of clapping and ululating vocalizations and a chorus of the Passion according to Saint John is impressive. Not all efforts are equally successful; the chant at the end of the Agnus Dei of the Mass in B minor simply sounds tacked on. But when the mix works, as it normally does, the effect is revealing and transformative. The sound is intensely clean and very well differentiated, highlighting the wonderful strangeness of the mixture of traditions.

1 Cantate 147 0:13

2 Sankanda (traditionnel arr. P Akendengué) 5:70

3 Mayingo (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengue): Fugue sur Mayingo (T. Gubitsch) 2:12

4 Herr, Unser Herrscher 4:36

5 Mabo Maboe (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué): Gigue de la Quatrième Suite en mi bémol majeur pour violoncelle 3:38

6 Bombé/Ruht Wohl Ihr Heiligen Gebeine 3:46

7 Pepa Nzac Gnon Ma (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué): Prélude de la Partitia pour violon no3 4:23

8 Mamoudo Na Sakka Baya Boudouma Ngombi (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué): Prélude No.14 BWV 883 4:28

9 Agnus Dei (Messe en si BWV 232 — arr. P. Akendengué) 5:60

10 Ikokou (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué) 2:11

11 Inongo (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué et H. de Courson): Invention à trois voix No3 en ré majeur BWV 789 5:40

12 Okoukoué (traditionnel arr. P. Akendengué et H. de Courson): Cantate 147 1:54

13 Was Mir Behagt, Ist Nur Die Muntre Jagd (Chorus "La Chasse" — J.S.Bach arr. P. Akendengué et H. de Courson) 3:30

14 Cantate 147 "Jesus que ma joie demeure" (J.S.Bach arr. P. Akendengué et H. Courson) 2:14

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