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ASA - Piano music by composers of African descent
Fred ONOVWEROSUOKE (b.1960)
Studies in African Rhythm [8:38]
Robert KWAMI (1954 - 2004)
January Dance (1973) [2:51]
Isak ROUX (b.1959)
Township Guitar [5:25]
Bongani NDODANA (b.1975)
Flowers in Sand [9:51]
Halim EL DABH (b.1921)
Coma Dance (1950) [5:08]
Amadeo ROLDAN (1900-1939)
Preludio Cubano [1:51]
Ludovic LAMOTHE (1882-1953)
La Dangereuse [5:03]
Alain-Pierre PRADEL (b.1949)
Pomme Canelle [2:41]
Florence PRICE (1887 - 1953)
Dances in the Canebrakes [9:03]
Wallace CHEATHAM (b.1946)
Three Preludes [5:08]
Coleridge Taylor PERKINSON (1932-2004)
Toccata [2:35]
William Chapman Nyaho (piano)
rec. August 2007, University of California, Santa Cruz, California DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS1242 [57:45]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a very attractive, and most rewarding, recital of music, much, if not all, of which will be totally unfamiliar to the majority of those reading this. There’s a vast variety of styles and sounds here, many taking the European model as a starting point but each work quickly takes its own path in a most fascinating way.

Fred Onovwerosuoke (from Nigeria) gets things off to a cracking start with his Studies in African Rhythm. This is strong music with a very individual voice. Each piece imitates a dance or musical pattern and they make a very attractive suite, with lots of variety and plenty of fun. These six come from a set of 24 and I yearn to hear the others. This taster is really too good to miss. January Dance by Ghanaian-born Robert Kwami is a wonderfully quirky piece made up of a simple tune with a kind of misplaced stride bass line. Totally enjoyable.

Two South African composers come next. Isak Roux’s Township Guitar - the first of 9 Preludes in African Rhythm - is as entertaining as anything along the same lines by Gottschalk. Around a repeated note motto the composer creates a fascinating web of sound and builds a very satisfying work from the simplest of means. Bongani Ndodana’s Flowers in Sand is two nocturnes of Ivesian intensity. Egyptian Halim El Dabh offers a Coma Dance which, despite the connotations of the first word of the title, is one of the most vivacious and outgoing of all the works on this disk.

Amadeo Roldán was born in France but moved to Cuba where he was leader, and later conductor, of the Havana Philharmonic, he also founded the Havana String Quartet and was director of the Havana Conservatoire. Roldán is also credited with being the first composer to write works specifically for percussion alone - the fifth and sixth of his Rítmicas (1930) - which predate Varèse’s Ionisation by a year. Preludio Cubano is a bright and breezy miniature, and it’s followed by a longer work which is no less delightful - La Dangereuse by Haitian Ludovic Lamothe. Alain-Pierre Pradel’s Pomme Canelle - a custard apple believed to be native to the West Indies - is a sweet and agreeable morsel, as, no doubt, is the apple.

The final three composers are American. Florence S Price was the first African American composer to achieve national recognition and the first to have their works performed by leading symphony orchestras. The (3) Dances in the Canebrakes are light pieces - a joyous dance, a sultry sun drenched noontime and a cakewalk. Wallace Cheatham’s Three Preludes are by far the most advanced pieces here, polytonal and rhythmically complicated, it will come as a surprise that all three pieces are based on Spirituals! The Toccata by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson - named after the British composer of Hiawatha fame - brings the recital to a rumbustious close.

This disk is a revelation - bringing together eleven composers new to me, in performances of obvious dedication and great spirit. William Chapman Nyaho is an excellent player and we are to be grateful to him for bringing this hitherto unknown music to our attention. I now want much more. The recording is very bright and forthright, the piano well-focused and very forward. The notes are full and fascinating. All in all, a real find.

Bob Briggs  

 


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