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Sharing releases, present and past, to brighten your day. WXXI Classical has its eyes and ears on the latest releases from classical artists working today. When we come across a story or a release we think you might enjoy, we’ll be sharing it with you on CD Spotlight. You’ll learn more about the artists online at WXXI Classical, and you’ll hear selections from these artists on FM 91.5. CD Spotlight shares new releases by artists that you’ll want to know and some by great artists and ensembles that deserve to be in the spotlight again.

CD Spotlight: Bacchanale – Saint-Saëns and the Mediterranean by Zahia Ziouani and Divertimento

Cover of Bachanale by Zahia Ziouani & Divertimento
Cover of Bachanale by Zahia Ziouani & 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.

A Strong Memorial baby and Greece Arcadia grad, Julia Figueras was the Music Director and mid-day host for WXXI Classical until June 30, 2023 when she retired after more than 26 years of service. She also hosted the award-winning monthly interview/performance show, Backstage Pass.