Ohana: Miroir de Célestine; Deux pièces pour clavecin; So Tango; Sacral d’Ilx

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COMPOSERS: Ohana
LABELS: Timpani
WORKS: Miroir de Célestine; Deux pièces pour clavecin; So Tango; Sacral d’Ilx
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Chojnacka (harpsichord), Béatrice Daudin (percussion), Fabrice Mélinon (oboe), Miklós Nagy (horn); Luxembourg PO/Arturo Tamayo
CATALOGUE NO: 1C 1069
Moroccan-born of Spanish parents with Sephardic and Gibraltarian roots, and active in Paris from the Thirties, Maurice Ohana is generally classed as a French composer. However, he served in the British Army in World War II, spent various periods in Africa and his Spanish ancestry left a deep imprint on his music. A cosmopolitan eclectic who absorbed much from Debussy, through Messiaen to Varèse, he was anything but doctrinaire and was always hard to classify, except as an almost bewilderingly inventive and sophisticated musical mind. Harpsichord and percussion featured prominently in his output, and are brought together here in the ear-tickling fantasy of Miroir de Célestine (1990), a sonic tour de force derived from Ohana’s eponymous opera.

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His sonorities can be crystalline and dissonant – or he can write deft tonal pastiche like So Tango (1991), a tribute to the Argentinian tango composer Carlos Gardel; less striking, this, than the eruptive Conga which forms the second of the 1982 Deux pièces, or the austere and esoteric Sacral d’Ilx with oboe and horn (1976). In earlier works such as Tiento (1955) and the 1950 Sarabande for harpsichord and orchestra, the composer’s Spanish (and Debussian) heritage is plainer to hear. The disc as a whole is a stunning vehicle for Elisabeth Chojnacka, surely the foremost living exponent of new music for the harpsichord. Wonderfully lively, meaty sound, too. Calum MacDonald