Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

Ethiopique 21

This collection of solo piano music by an Ethiopian nun is not what you’d expect, if it’s even possible to know what to expect from such an unlikely source. Guèbrou, now 83, studied in Cairo and hoped to continue to do so in England, but her plans were vetoed by the Emperor. She sunk into depression, eventually joining a monastery. She recorded five collections of music in Germany and Israel between 1963 and 1996. This CD collects pieces from each of these, and they are a moving tribute to a tremendously skilled musician. The songs are repetitive, her manner of playing meditative, and although atypical of most Ethiopian music, there is a kind of distillation of the sound of the region: tinkling little arpeggios melded onto semi-western ètudes, equal parts Debussy and Chopin, Ellington and Evans.