Haïti mon amour
Piano Works by Justin Elie, Ludovic Lamothe et al
Célimène Daudet (piano)
NoMadMusic NMM087D 49:18 mins
Nine out of ten ‘unjustly neglected composers’ turn out to be nothing of the sort, suitable only for ticking boxes in concert programmes or filling gaps in discographies better left unfilled. Here’s a delightful exception: Ludovic Lamothe, dubbed ‘the Black Chopin’, born in Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, part educated there before going on to the Paris Conservatoire (thanks partly to the funding of some cultured Germans in Haiti) and returning to his native land for the rest of his life. Célimène Daudet, tracing her mother’s roots in Haiti, has organised a piano festival there, and as a result was given one of Lamothe’s scores by the Sainte Trinite Music School in Port-au-Prince. Her ensuing research has given us a tapestry of miniatures – melancholy, swaying, rumbustious, even violent in turn – by Lamothe and two other compatriots, Justin Elie and Edmond Saintonge.
Lamothe’s gentle genius shines here. Of the two ‘Album Leaves’, No. 1 would be a worthy bittersweet encore in any recital; No. 2 is more gracious, but again not without interesting harmonic progressions. The third ‘Danza’ shares that grace, turning personal towards the end, while ‘Loco’ pulsates with voodoo energy. Elie’s ‘Mountain Songs’ come close to the best of Lamothe’s clearly deeply felt poetry; the ‘Meringues’, a popular Haitian dance form, are lighter, more generic stuff but provide perfect contrast. A simple Polish song by Chopin, arranged (but ever so modestly, for a change) by Liszt pays final homage to the master whose music Lamothe played so beautifully.
This is a disc to discover and savour.