Maurice Ohana 
Etudes d'interprétation XI & XII for piano and percussion

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
Piano Yamaha CF III 
Florent Jodelet

"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°238

Digital/Digital/iTunes Plus

The presence of percussion in the last two Etudes is nothing but a natural extension of Ohana’s tendency to "de-temperate" the piano, through astonishingly refined acoustic deception and "cheating" denotating an exceptionally subtle inner hearing. This is music meant to sound, the written sign being but its humble (and not always fully adequate) servant. That which Paul Roberts writes about Debussy applies to Ohana at an even higher degree : "the instrument does not undergo the music, but on the contrary it is its source; it endlessly explores and discovers new riches at the level of resonance, texture and timbre (...). In Debussy’s music the sensorial and sensuous apprehension of sound has become an end in itself." Indeed, as has been stressed before, the music of Ohana often looks unpromising and scanty on paper, but wait for the explosion of its dazzling riches under the fingers of the inspired performer, whose re-creative imagination is absolutely essential! From what has been said so far, it is obvious that text-book analysis won’t do in the present case. Before giving some useful indications about each piece, let us once again quote the composer :

"One too often puts language before the actual thing to be said, whereas it should proceed from the work’s vision." - "My music is complex, but not complicated. Once they get beyond a certain threshold, my performers find it easy." - "It is important that the essential fabric of my music should be singable. It must be accessible to a human being under the most simple form allowing him to apprehend it."

Since the mere reading of the score cannot hope to convey a complete picture of the music, it is essential that it should be transmitted to posterity through recordings made by performers who worked under the composer’s own supervision. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet belongs to those privileged happy few.

XI. Sons confondus

The last two Etudes (actually completed long before Nrs.9 and 10) call for the presence of a percussionist. Both are elaborate, extended concert pieces, the one considered here lasting a full eleven minutes. The percussion instruments mainly include "metals" : 3 suspended cymbals, 3 Chinese gongs, 2 tam-tams (medium and large), a bell-tree, a set of crotales, 3 temple bells, 3 Chinese cymbals, 5 cow bells, but also a vibraphone, a tambourine and an (optional) cithar (dulcimer) tuned in thirds of tone. The piece explores the effects of resonances between pitched (vibraphone, dulcimer) or unpitched (cymbals, gongs) percussions and the piano. Ohana takes advantage of the very broad and little-defined spectrum (up to "white noise") of vibrant metals by projecting into them the complex, but defined harmonic resonances of the tempered piano. Through this phenomenon of absorption, the metals thus prolong the harmonic resonances of the piano by de-tempering them, whereas in Ohana’s own beautiful Silenciaire of 1969, on the contrary, the twelve stringed instruments acted as a body of resonance to the non-tempered and inharmonic spectra of the percussion, thus also de-tempering the harmonic space. Special sound effects are largely used, such as striking the piano’s strings with drum-sticks, mixing glissandi of vibraphone and piano or integrating the sound of the dulcimer into the resonance of the piano. This and the next Etude belong to Ohana’s most original and richest inspirations.

XII. Imitations-Dialogues

Here skinned percussions predominate (side-drum, tambourine, 2 bongoes, 3 toms, 2 tumbas, a contrabass tom), but a variety of other percussions also appear : 4 wood-blocks, 2 temple-blocks, 2 tam-tams (medium and low), 2 lying cymbals, a bell-tree, claves and a pair of maracas. With diabolical skill, Ohana takes advantage of the effect of mimetism and acoustic deceit caused by the approximate nature of our aural memory, so as to make us forget at times that the piano is an instrument with tempered pitch, whereas at least some of the skinned percussions are not. The intimate osmose first explored by Bartók in his celebrated Sonata for two Pianos and Percussion is here developed into its most secret recesses with unsurpassed refinement. Even more than in Etude Nr.11, which to be true pursued quite different issues, Piano and Percussion are treated like a single entity adding up all their separate possibilities. This is the reason why the genuine place of these two pieces is indeed within a collection of Piano Etudes.

Harry Halbreich

Florent Jodelet


Born in 1962, Florent Jodelet studied percussion with Michel Cals then with Jacques Delecluse at the Paris Conservatoire, where he obtained a First Prize in 1983. He completed his training with Jean-Pierre Drouet, also receiving tuition from Iannis Xenakis at the University of Paris and from Michel Zbar (in electroacoustic music). His taste for creation has led him to collaborate intensively with contemporary composers, and his concert career has enabled him to play numerous works: concertos for percussion and orchestra; solo pieces and chamber music, both in France and abroad.

In addition, he has built up a discography of the contemporary percussion repertoire with discs devoted to Philippe Fenelon, Michael Jarrell, Maurice Ohana, Kaija Saariaho and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Since 1988, Florent Jodelet has been soloist with the Orchestre National de France and since 1998, assistant-professor at the Paris Conservatoire.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet


Jean-Efflam Bavouzet was born in 1962. He studied piano at the Metz (France) Conservatory, also taking courses in oboe, percussion, and composition for electronic instruments. He went on to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, where he studied under Pierre Sancan and was awarded a number of first prizes. There he attended courses by Jean Hubeau , and Master Classes led by Paul Badura-Skoda, Nikita Magaloff, Menahem Pressler, and others. In 1986 he won first prize at the Köln International Beethoven-Tomassoni Competition and the New York Young Concert Artists Auditions. His early professional performances won unusual acclaim from American critics. In 1989 Bavouzet won the Chamber Music Prize at the International Van Cliburn Competition. In 1992, he won the Esther Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary (Canada).

Recent concert tours to North America have provided opportunities to maintain his dialogue with Alexander Edelman in New York. Bavouzet's musical tastes are wide-ranging, with special emphasis on contemporary music, jazz, and jazz-rock (some of his favourite musicians include Chick Corea, John Mc Laughlin, and Bill Evans).

A number of contacts were especially significant in Bavouzet's musical life. His 1989 interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen was a great experience, and his friendship with Maurice Ohana played an important role in his development.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet performs regularly in France and at a number of music festivals (Festival Estival de Paris, Les Jacobins International Piano Festival at Toulouse, Festival de La Roque d'Anthéron, etc...) and also in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia. Notable among the many conductors he has performed with are Marek Janowski, Armin Jordan, Ken Ichiro Kobayashi, Emmanuel Krivine, Kent Nagano and Michel Plasson.

Music and recording critics have acclaimed the high quality of Bavouzet's Joseph Haydn, Sonatas & Fantasia : "... his inflexible dynamics, perfect phrasing, and shared musical enjoyment with the listener are masterly" (quoted from a review by Sophie Roughol).

"... Through his exacting, supple, carefully constructed and powerfully logical playing, Bavouzet takes unerring aim and never misses the mark" (quoted from a review by Patrick Szersnovicz).

For the daily paper "Le Monde" his record Robert Schumann, Grande Sonate opus 14, Kinderszenen & Kreisleriana is selected among "the best of 1994" : "To play Schumann, to organize, without showing it, the flood of his music, you need a pianist with mind and heart : that is Bavouzet. The three antinomic works are played with astounding correctness..." (quoted from a review by Alain Lompech).


Etude XI, Sons confondus

Etude XII, Imitations-Dialogues


"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°238
© 2021 Harmonic Classics