CD Spotlight: Bacchanale – Saint-Saëns and the Mediterranean by Zahia Ziouani and Divertimento
After the breakdown of Camille Saint-Saëns’ marriage he became a world traveler, visiting every continent but Australia and Antarctica. Some of his journeys were for concert tours, but others were taken to discover culture and music. Through all his travels, Saint-Saëns would find his true home away from home in North Africa, especially Algeria and Egypt, where he would live for long stretches, absorbing the worlds around him, and finding musical inspiration. That inspiration can be heard in many works, including his fifth piano, nicknamed the Egyptian, and his African Fantasy for piano and orchestra.
Like Saint-Saëns, conductor Zahia Ziouani lives in these two worlds; born in Paris, she is the daughter of Algerian parents. In her newest release with her ensemble Divertimento, Ziouani knits these two worlds together with Bacchanale: Saint-Saëns and the Mediterranean, combining the composer’s internationally influenced music with traditional and classical music of Algeria. Parysatis, Saint-Saëns’ Egyptian ballet, is followed by Algerian singer-songwriter Idir’s “A vava inouva.” The traditional song “Istikhbar Mezmoum” precedes an aria from Samson and Delilah in a beautiful arrangement played by Ziouani’s twin sister, cellist Fettouma. Movements of Saint-Saëns’ Algerian Suite are intertwined with traditional tunes that were undoubtably heard by the composer himself as he walked through the streets and markets of Oran, where you can find the Rue Saint-Saëns.
Ziouani and Divertimento, along with the traditional group Ensemble Amedyez, have created a rich tapestry of song and sound, seamlessly traveling from one culture to another. It is an unforgettable and irresistible musical journey.