Maurice Ohana


Maurice Ohana (born June 12, 1913 in Casablanca, Morocco; died November 13, 1992 in Paris) was a French composer of Sephardic Jewish origin.

Ohana originally studied architecture, but abandoned this in favour of a musical career, initially as a pianist. He studied under Alfredo Casella in Rome, returning to France in 1946. Around this time he founded the "Groupe Zodiaque", which fought against prevailing musical dogma. His mature musical style shows the influence of Mediterranean folk music, particularly the Andalusian cante jondo.

Ohana's output includes the choral works Office des Oracles and Avoaha (1992), three string quartets (1963, 1980, 1989), and two suites for ten-string guitar: Si le jour paraît... (1963) and Cadran lunaire (1981-2), as well as a Tiento (1957) for six-string guitar. He also wrote an opera entitled Syllabaire pour Phèdre.

He is also known for his extensive use of microtonality; for example, third- and quarter-tones in pieces like Le Tombeau de Debussy and Si le jour paraît.... He was influenced by the use of microintervals in the cante jondo.

Ohana has but rarely composed for large symphony orchestra : Synaxis (1966), Livre des Prodiges (1979) and T'Harân-Ngô (1973-1974). He composed two cello concertos, one piano concerto and one guitar concerto.

Although he was born in Morocco and lived in France from the 1930s onwards, Ohana was a British citizen until 1976, since his father had been born in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory.


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