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Impressions d'Afrique

Quatuor Béla


This disc is the fruit of our fascination for African music. The pieces recorded here are the result of a journey lasting a number of years. For us, musicians of a string quartet, Africa appears as a continent far removed from the artistic traditions of our lands. And yet...

In the beginning, there was the allure of the cora, the polyphonic pygmy songs, the ethiopian bolel... and hours of spent devouring the wonderful recordings from the Ocora label.

Next came the discovery of the composer Kevin Volans' singular universe, an improbable and wonderful bridge between the Zulu and occidental avant-garde culture. A more transposed and stylized vision of the African continent opened itself up to us. We must thank the intrepid Kronos Quartet who were the first to record the fantastic White Man Sleeps.

I t was during our recording of Ligeti's quartets that we met Simha Arom, the great ethnomusicologist and specialist in the music of the Aka pygmies. His erudition and incredible memories of his expeditions in the Central African Republic encouraged us to explore ourselves the musical riches of this huge continent.

In between times, I had written Impressions of Africa, after a commission by Luc Dedreuil for the 'Alexander' cello quartet, of which we play here the version for string quartet. The sonorous images created in this piece are 'veritably' phantasmagoric, both caricatures of stereotypes that we might have of the Dark continent, and intangible dreams of an african garden of Eden. Michel Leiris, in his book The African Ghost, describes as much what he sees as what he feels or indeed how he is transformed by his travels. In the same way Impressions of Africa, is this 'corner of africa' which is part of our communal imagination, a world which, for my part, even a number of stays in Gabon or in the Congo have not totally erased.

And last but not least, there was the encounter with Moriba. When Philippe Conrath, director of Africolor festival, asked us to share the stage with an african musician, it was our dear Charlotte De Jésus, manager of the quartet, who immediately thought of Moriba Koïta, and who introduced us. We were in direct contact with Mali and the tradition of griots. Before realising the true measure of the memory-man Moriba was, we were principally impressed by his instrumental virtuosity. The musical language, the manners of composing, or working, of 'approaching', were so different, the gap between musical notation and memorization of melodic formulas was immense, that the goal of playing our music together sometimes seemed unattainable. But the vehement desire to share a real musical object that belonged only to us five, won through. And it is maybe because we had to travel such long roads towards each other, that we developed such a particular relationship with Moriba, of great esteem and friendship, a relationship which belonged to us only.

On the 22nd of September 2016, the anniversary of the independence of Mali, Moriba Koïta died. He was, without a doubt, one of the greatest cultural ambassadors for Mali across the world. This CD is dedicated to him.


Frédéric Aurier, for quatuor Béla

Reviews on... -> Libération - Classica - Classique HD - ConcertoNet - Pizzicato - Froggy's delight - gang-flow - Idfm 98

France Musique : Coup de cœur de l'année - France Musique/Allegretto



Solos et pièces franco-mandingues Moriba Koïta
White Man Sleeps Kevin Volans
Impressions d'Afrique* Frédéric Aurier

Quatuor Béla

Julien Dieudegard - violin
Frédéric Aurier - violin
Julian Boutin - viola
Luc Dedreuil - cello

Moriba Koïta n'gonis, tama

violin 1 : Frédéric Aurier except* Julien Dieudegard



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