Hughes de Courson

Mozart l'Égyptien 1 & 2

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Hughes de Courson, member of the vintage French folk group Malicorne, has launched a new career as a musical fusionist on a grand scale. First he gave us Lambarena: Bach to Africa, which, in tribute to Albert Schweitzer, combined the religious music of J.S. Bach with the music of the Gabonese peoples of Africa. On Mozart l'égyptien, Courson unites the (mostly secular) music of W.A. Mozart with the traditional music of Egypt.

Even though efforts to blend classical and other forms of music are often disasters (e.g. playing The Four Seasons with a jazz ensemble), this one works and works well. It helps that Egyptian music has the complexity and emotional depth necessary to stand up to Mozart. One of the composers most famous movements, the opening to "Symphony No. 40 in G minor" is matched to one of the Middle East's most famous melodies, "Lama Bada Yatathenna." The one-on-one confrontations are even more daring, as in the "Concerto for Oud and Piano No. 23," where the oud performs one of those long preludes typical of Arabic music that leads, as if by magic, to the piano theme, which it weaves in and out of. This piece, like the others on the album, was arranged by Courson along with the Bulgarian musician Teg and the Egyptian Nasredine Dalil.

The high point of the album is a hybridization of the "Requiem" with Islamic chant and a Coptic piece sung by a ten-year old girl. It is possible to listen to this piece and hear a sort of music that has never existed in any country but that of the imagination. A breathtaking tour de force.

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