Twenty-Four Studies in African Rhythms by Peter Henderson


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Label: AM Publishers ASIN: B01GUH1FFK
5.0 out of 5 starsThe New Piano Vista: Fredo’s “Twenty-Four Studies in African Rhythms
July 4, 2015
Format: MP3 Music
Dominique-René de Lerma Reviews Peter Henderson’s “Twenty Four Studies in African Rhythms” —
Now we have a new item, both in print and on CD. The work of Fred Onovwerosuoke, conductor, administrator, and composer has become quite well known and warmly respected in recent decades. While working his way through college, among his piano students were those who wanted less worn-our repertoire. This was the stimulus for the little gems, written between 1988 and 2009. These were gathered together as Twenty-four studies in African rhythms and published in two handsome volumes in 2011 by African Music Publishers (3547 Olive Street, Suite 110, St. Louis MO 63103), enhanced by the composer’s informative preface (in either volume, he explains the generating idea for each work) with introductory notes by Mark Boozer, Darryl Hollister, William C. Nyaho, Grace Christus, and Wendy Hymes — all very recognized performers.
One might begin with “Edo,” the second etude in the first volume. The challenge here is to create three levels, almost like different instruments: the bass as ostinato, the upper voice a variant ostinato, with the legato melody in the middle voice. Or “Tunis,” (I/IV) with the bass ostinato (3+3+2) and a rhythmically uncomplicated upper voice. Theorists will enjoy identifying the various scales/modes and speculating on the blues-flavored “Iroro” (I/6). Virtuosic articulation is required (and provided!) in II/13 (“Exhortation”).
The publication is dedicated to Peter Henderson (Maryville University), the masterful musician who has recorded the entire set June 20-21, 2011 (AMP Records, AGCD 2504, already announced last month to AfriClassical fans). He is a remarkable artist, not only managing the intricate polyrhythms, but giving musical life to every nuance and dynamic. Even without considering the impetus for these two dozen miniatures, this recording should be high on the acquisition agenda of all music libraries, pianists, and record collectors. He offer proof than this music can be performed by one who is neither Ghanian nor Nigerian.
But the astonishment cannot be fully realized without reference to the printed music, and both should be acquired. If Dr. Onovwerusuoke wrote these for his pupils, they must have been exceptionally advanced. If that were not the case, their efforts to become comfortable with the technical and rhythmic challenges must have been the source of great pride — the works are all reasonably brief and each gives focus to specific factors, so the time invested pays off once the pianist’s hands fingers have been acculturated.
All of the pieces have been printed in traditional notation, wonderfully disguising the complexities. One, which could have been set in 14/16 meter is offered in 2/4; the pianist is only obligated to be at ease with the septuplets (“Raging river,” II/24). A 9/8 meter hides the additive rhythm-meter of 3+6 (“Mother Earth,” II/15). There remains the simultaneous juxtaposition of dissimilar beat divisions, but this has already been encountered in the hemiolas of Brahms, but never as in the “Herero wedding dance” (I/7). And Henderson’s cadences are musicianly marvels! We must have more from him!
In the end, a pianist would be liberated from Western traditions, and the audience would become alert to new visions of musical creativity. Zukunftsmusik? Might well be.


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