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Asa - Piano Music By Composers Of African Descent / William Chapman Nyaho

Release Date: 11/11/2008 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1242   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Fred OnovwerosuokeRobert KwamiIsak RouxBongani Ndodana,   ... 
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ASA William Chapman Nyaho (pn) MSR 1242 (57:45)

ONOVWEROSUOKE Studies in African Rhythm. KWAMI January Dance. ROUX Preludes in African Rhythm: Township Guitar. NDODANA Flowers in Sand. EL DABH Coma Read more Dance. ROLDÁN Preludio cubano. LAMOTHE La dangereuse. PRADEL Pièces créoles: Pomme cannelle. PRICE Dances in the Canebrakes. CHEATHAM 3 Preludes. PERKINSON Toccata

This disc is subtitled “piano music by composers of African descent,” and presents no fewer than six world premiere recordings. It provides a welcome glimpse into the workings of black composers resident both in Africa and beyond. The first five composers whose works we hear are all based in Africa itself. From there, we move to Cuba, Haiti, Guadeloupe, and the U.S.A.

Fred Onovwerosuoke, born in 1960 in Ghana to Nigerian parents, has spent much time studying African music, its harmonies, its instruments, and its rhythms. His 24 Studies in African Rhythm takes dance or dance patterns as the basis for each study. First, we hear “Udje,” based on a Nigerian Urhobo dance. It is staccato and angular, while “Jali” is influenced by the kora of West Africa and the kraar from Northeastern Africa. It is a lonely dance, characterized by an overriding staccato touch and hesitant gestures. “Okoye” is much more extrovert, fusing Edo (Nigeria) and Baganda (Uganda) polyrhythms effectively, leaving “Iroro” to restate a more ritualistic approach (it is derived from the trance dances of the West African coastline cults). “Ayevwiomo Dance No. 1” is dedicated to Nyaho and is less region-specific than the other pieces. Finally, “Agbazda” takes the royal and funeral music of the Ghanaian Ewe tribe and places it in the larger geographical context of Togo and Benin. The generally dry recording suits the playful, mainly staccato nature of Onovwerosuoke’s music.

The Ghana link of the final movement by Onovwerosuoke forms a link to the music of Ghanaian composer Robert Mawuena Kwami (1954–2004). His January Dance uses a theme which sounds remarkably familiar (it sounds like it is going to break out into “We wish you a Merry Christmas” at any moment). The composer claims it represents the style of African pianism. It is unbuttoned fun, and is magnificently played by Nyaho.

The South African composer Isak Roux (b. 1959) studied with Kevin Volans. He worked on South African folk music while in Durban, as well as arranging for, producing, and performing with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The first of his Preludes in African Rhythm , heard here, is based on Zulu guitar music; its central, Kwela rhythm-based section hints at a township melody, Izintombi zase kwatazi , that reappears in the coda.

South African composer Bongani Ndodana (b. 1975) uses both real and invented folk music of Africa. His Flowers in Sand was written for the organist Lucius Weatherby and was inspired by the semi-desert Karoo region of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. The rhythms of the first part are sourced in the music of the Venda people. Intended to evoke the stillness in the desert after a storm, it is split into two parts, “After the first rain” and “Colors in the dunes.” The first part touches frequently on silence; stasis and meditative reflection are common to both of the work’s sections.

Halim El Dabh’s Coma Dance (1950) speaks fluently of its native Egypt. It was intended as a way of sending healing energy back to his father in Egypt while the composer was himself in the United States. Based on the Arabic melodic modes called hijaz kar and the popular dance rhythm maqsum , it is a lovely, lively work that would surely act as a perfect recital encore.

Born in France to Cuban parents, Amadeo Roldán y Gardes (1900–1939) was a leading figure in the establishment of afrocubanismo , a synthesis of Afro-Cuban melody and polyrhythm with Western traditions. His brief (1:51) Preludio cubano is deliciously charming, making expert use of the piano’s higher registers.

Ludovico Lamothe (1882–1953) is apparently Haiti’s best-known classical composer. He studied both piano and composition with Louis Diémer in Paris in 1910 (a variety of Diémer’s recordings have been transferred to compact disc). Lamothe’s affinity with the music of Chopin led to his nickname, “the black Chopin.” He returned to Haiti in 1930 and was later appointed chief of music of the Republic of Haiti. The piece heard here, La dangereuse , is nicknamed “Meringue haïtienne.” It is a period piece of much entertainment value, invoking a ghost of Scott Joplin. The composer/pianist Alain-Pierre Pradel (b. 1949) grew up in Guadeloupe, a former French colony in the West Indies. His piece is called Pomme cannelle , which is a type of custard apple native to the West Indies. Pradel’s representation of the fruit in music is a delight. It comes from a set of seven piano pieces.

Florence S. Price (1887–1953) received her degree in organ music from the New England Conservatory of Music. After a spell in Arkansas, she moved to Chicago, where she was the first African American to have her work played by leading orchestras (including the Chicago Symphony). The three pieces that comprise Dances in the Canebrakes are expertly crafted little gems. The central “Tropical Noon” is the longest movement and arguably the finest. The final movement, “Silk Hat and Walking Cane,” is a suave cakewalk.

Wallace McClain Cheatham’s Preludes is based on Negro spirituals ( Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Poor mourner’s got a home , and My Lord don’t it rain ). The lament of the middle Prelude is wonderfully desolate, especially when as expressively nuanced as here, while the finale is surprisingly dissonant. Finally, Coleridge Taylor Perkinson’s Toccata. Perkinson (1932–2004), was a composer named after the African British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Jazz and blues intermingle in this joyous, outgoing, virtuoso end piece to this memorable recital.

A Want List candidate.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Studies in African Rhythm by Fred Onovwerosuoke
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
January Dance by Robert Kwami
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Township Guitar by Isak Roux
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Flowers in Sand by Bongani Ndodana
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Coma Dance by Halim El Dabh
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Preludio Cubano by Amadeo Roldán
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Cuba 
La Dangereuse by Ludovic Lamothe
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Haiti 
Pomme Canelle by Alain-Pierre Pradel
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence Beatrice Price
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
Preludes (3) for Piano by Wallace Cheatham
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Toccata for Piano by Coleridge-T. Perkinson
Performer:  William Chapman Nyaho (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; USA 

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