Pierre Akendengue

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Pierre Akendengue, Hughes de Courson and musicians from Africa and Europe
Lambarena: Bach To Africa
Originally published in 1994 - Sony Classics

Lambarena is a tribute to Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) in which Gabon - where he built and directed the hospital at Lambarene - and the gospel according to his beloved Johann Sebastian Bach are aligned into manifold encounters with ecstasy, mystery and passion. The collaborators behind the massive project were the French producer Hughes de Courson (Malicorne, Kolinda) and Gabon's master composer, poet laureate and cultural figurehead Pierre Akendengue, both men of profound musical intuition and creative audacity.

The classical choristers and players were brought together with ten Gabonese ensembles of mixed voices plus soloists and virtuoso instrumentalists in Paris under conditions of absolute parity. During a recording session that lasted nearly one hundred days, de Courson and Akendengue explored the common ground and telling contrasts between the Gabonese and classical material. Brazil's Nana Vasconcelos, a percussionist of international renown, contributed an introspective and sinister language, hissing and rattling among and between the voices and instruments.

"Pepa Nazc Gnon Ma/Prelude de la partida no.3"

Highlights are incessant, but the juxtaposition of a traditional chorus led by a female soloist of nearly frightening power with "Lasset Uns Den Nicht Zerteilen" from Bach's "St. John's Passion" exerts an inexorable fascination as it rushes by. Later, a muted moan from one of the African choirs, exhaled over what sounds like a Zen temple bell, foreshadows the tragic opening of the "St. John," "Herr Unser Herrscherr," which is itself orbited by tamtams and forest sounds. While a child wanders alone, piping fractured quotes from "Jesus Bliebet Meine Freude," a countertenor sings the pleading "Agnus Dei" and is met by women's voices chanting a pygmy rhythm.

"Lasset Uns Den Nicht Zerteilen"

"Herr Unser Herrscherr"

Bach addresses his God by erecting measured Baroque exaltations to His glory while the Gabonese agitate the divine by performing rituals that celebrate passages on the human timeline. Lambarena is an appropriate memorial to a man whose desire for the sacred caused him to love and heal suffering flesh. - Christina Roden

See also an interview with Hughes de Courson

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