Notes and Editorial Reviews
Born as an hommage to Albert Schweitzer, the project Lambarena - Bach to Africa was the idea of Mariella Berthéas and the foundation “L’espace Afrique”, organized to make this recording possible. Uniting the two integral elements which formed Schweitzer’s “sound world” - the music of Bach and the native melodies and rhythms of his adopted homeland Gabon - Lambarena is the work of two uniquely talented musicians: Hughes de Courson, French composer and producer, who pieced together the classical structure of Lambarena, and Pierre Akendengué, author, philosopher and guitarist from Gabon with more than 12 recordings to his credit.
De Courson and Akendengué began work on Lambarena by linking the traditional
harmonies of Bach to various Gabonese ethnic harmonies (there are at least 42 different ethnic backgrounds in a country of one million inhabitants), creating a fascinating fabric of sound woven together from Gabonese chant voices and the classical melodies of Bach, permeated throughout by the underlying rhythms of the African forest. Following months of preparation, the 10 musical ensembles from Gabon chosen by Pierre Akendengué to participate in Lambarena travelled to Paris to join with Western classical musicians as well as Argentinean tango and Jazz musicians Osvaldo Calo and Tomas Gubitsch, and percussionists Sami Ateba and Nana Vasconcelos for nearly 100 days in the recording studio. The result of this extraordinary cross-cultural collaboration is Lambarena.
Albert Schweitzer was born on 14 January 1875 in the Upper Alsace region of Germany (now France), the son of a Lutheran pastor. He studied philosophy and theology at Strasbourg, gaining his doctorate in 1899. During his youth, Schweitzer also developed impressive musical skills, studying the organ with the noted musician Charles-Marie Widor in Paris. Widor recognized his pupil’s talents as a gifted interpreter of the works of J. S. Bach and encouraged him to undertake a study of the composer’s life and work. The result was the book J. S. Bach “le musicien-poète”, published in 1905, in which Schweitzer viewed Bach as a religious mystic and compared the expressive power of his music to those of the cosmic forces of the natural world. It was also in 1905 that Schweitzer decided to dedicate his life to service as a mission doctor, gaining his medical degree in 1913. He and his wife, Hélène Bresslau, a trained nurse, then set out for French Equatorial Africa, settling on the banks of the Ogooué (Ogowe) River in Lambaréné in the province of Gabon, where Schweitzer set up a hospital from his own income and savings.
After brief internship as an enemy alien (German) in Gabon and later in France during world War 1, Schweitzer returned to Lambaréné in 1924 to rebuild the hospital, relocating it some two miles up the Ogooué river and adding a leper colony. By 1963 - two years before Schweitzer’s death - the hospital was serving some 350 patients with a staff of 36 doctors, nurses and workers. Throughout his lifetime, Schweitzer continued his active pursuit of music, giving lectures and organ recitals throughout Europe and in Africa, making recordings, and continuing his project of editing Bach’s works with he had begun with Widor in 1911. As he himself once commented jokingly, “Music is a hereditary disease that I have inevitably acquired and can do nothing about.” Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his efforts in behalf of “the Brotherhood of Nations”. He died on 4 September 1965 in Lambaréné.
Works on This Recording
Lambarena by Hughes De Courson
Osvaldo Calo (Organ),
Sami Ateba (Percussion),
Nana Vasconcelos (Percussion)
Traditional Musicians from Gabon,
Le Chant sur la Lowé
Period: 20th Century
Notes: This work was conceived and composed in collaboration with Pierre Akendengué and incorporates works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
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