This is Volume 1 in a new chamber series which explores the music of composers who were forced to flee Europe during the 1930s. The survey begins with works by the German-born Jewish composer Paul Ben-Haim (né Frankenburger) who immigrated to Palestine in October 1933. Ben-Haim was an accomplished pianist, conductor, choral coach, and composer who made a significant cultural contribution to his adoptive country. The list of musicians who commissioned, performed, and recorded his music includes Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Menahem Pressler, and Leonard Bernstein. Among the Israeli composers he taught are Eliahu Inbal, Avraham Sternklar, Noam Sheriff, and Shulamit Ran.
Songhoy Blues are a young and exuberant Malian band who already have a remarkable history behind them. They fled from their homes in the north when radical Islamists overran the region, and on reaching the safety of Bamako, decided to form a band – at which point their fortunes dramatically changed. They came to the attention of Amadou & Mariam’s manager, Marc-Antoine Moreau, who was looking for musicians who could record with the Africa Express team when they came to town; they also collaborated with Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the AE’s Maison Des Jeunes set. Now comes their first full album, co-produced by Moreau and Zinner, and it’s an impressively varied and rousing set, if somewhat predictable. There’s electric desert blues (Nick), slinky, acoustic ballads (Petit Metier), and reworkings of songs from the Songhoy tradition. A band to watch.