Acclaimed Chicago-based soprano, Henriet Fourie. She does a perfect vocal interpretation of the songs on the Woestynblom CD.
Famous South African composer, Etienne van Rensburg who wrote the music for seven of Benjamin Fourie’s poems of the Namib Desert. These songs were put together in once cycle on the Woestynblom CD under the title Blou Orkaan (Blue Hurricane).
A new CD comprising 28 Afrikaans songs will be of particular interest to Namibians. Not only is the pianist a Namibian, he also wrote seven poems about the Namib, which became the lyrics for seven of the songs grouped together under the title Blou Orkaan (Blue Hurricane) as one cycle.
Benjamin Fourie, former piano lecturer at the College of the Arts, wrote the poems during his Windhoek years. Another Namibian, the well-known composer Etienne van Rensburg, set the words to tune to create the first cycle making up Blou Orkaan.
But the two felt that more creativity was needed to compile and record a full CD of Afrikaans songs so they went hunting in history. They retrieved a collection of poems from very famous poets, and then had these set to music by six other composers. The lyrics for the other cycles come from the likes of WEG Louw, Eugene Marais, Boerneef, ID du Plessis and Elizabeth Eybers. The music is contributed by avant garde composers like S le Roux Marais, Arnold van Dyk, Dirk de Klerk, Cromwell Everson, Pieter de Villiers and Lourens Faul.
For the vocals, Benjamin chose his niece, Henriet Fourie who is an accomplished professional opera and popular singer in Chicago. The result is a refreshingly modern interpretation of both new and old lyrics.
Once they got all the contributions together, a date was set for recording. This had to coincide with a visit of the soprano, Henriet from the United States to South Africa. Eventually all 28 songs were recorded in a single day in December last year. To accomplish this was no small feat but it succeeded thanks to the technical genius of soundman Alli Heyns.
All 28 songs are performed by Henriet, accompanied by her uncle Benjamin on the piano.
Benjamin told the Economist that these types of songs are generally called art songs. The style is unique and certainly not for mass consumption. It is appreciated by music lovers with a very refined ear. The blend of older lyrics with fresh sounds is what produces a tantalising audio sensation.
“We only had a 36-hour window to do the rehearsals, put a concert on the stage, and do the actual studio recordings. It was a lot of work but the result was fantastic. All the composers were ecstatic to hear their songs performed by such a brilliant soprano” said Benjamin.
Being an international award-winning pianist, Benjamin is very humble when he stated he had to be careful not to be too overbearing on the piano. Recalling the work of pianist Gerald Moore, he said the latter is known, not only as an excellent pianist, but also for his humorous book “Am I too loud?” in which he delicately talks about the balance between instrument and voice. Moore was the regular accompaniment for Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.
But composers like van Rensburg and de Klerk realise the piano is much more than a background instrument, and they incorporate a more powerful role for the instrument in their compositions.
“In these songs, the voice is the artist but the piano is the powerful, driving force. This makes for a fascinating listening experience, indeed not easy for the soprano” concluded Benjamin. Music critics have described this compilation as “the finely nuanced renderings of complex music.”