What do we know about Armenian classical music? How many Armenian composers does the average music lover know? Few, I’m afraid. Except for Aram Khachatourian and his Gayaneh. But this composer also owes his relative fame to the ‘sabre dance’ and the opening tune of the once so popular TV series The Onedin Line.
And that is sad. All the more so when you consider that the Armenian culture, with its own alphabet and also its own musical notation, is one of the oldest in Europe. Fortunately, more attention has been paid to it recently, which is mainly thanks to (from origin) Armenian musicians. For example, the viola player Kim Kashkashian recorded a CD with the music of Komitas and Tigran Mansurian back in 2003.
Below: Kim Kashkashian, Jan Garbarek and Ivan Avaizovsky play Mansurian’s Lachrymae:
The latter can also be found on the CD with Armenian piano trios, recorded by Et’Cetera in 2004, with, apart from Mansurian’s ‘Five Bagatelles’, compositions by Arno Babadjanian, Gayaneh Tchebodarian and Krikor Hakhinian.
Below, the piano trio by Arno Babadjanian:
All pieces on this CD were composed between 1945 and 1985 and are all very rhythmic and extremely pleasant to listen to. Personally I have some difficulty with Hakhinian’s trio, perhaps because of its ‘baroque’ character, but I soon came to terms with that.
Levon Chillingirian, a violinist born in Cyprus to Armenian parents, is known as the leader of the Chillingirian Quartet. Here he is assisted by Viviane Spanoghe (cello) and André De Groote (piano).
I can heartily recommend this CD! The pieces played are not only interesting, they are also exceptionally beautiful and the performances are more than excellent.
Below, ‘Moderato’ from the Five Bagatelles by Mansurian: