COMPOSERS: Bagdasarian,Khachaturian,Komitas,Mirzoyan and Babadjanian
ALBUM TITLE: My Armenia: Sergey & Lusine Khachatryan
WORKS: Works by Khachaturian, Komitas, Bagdasarian, Mirzoyan and Babadjanian
PERFORMER: Sergey Khachatryan (violin), Lusine Khachatryan (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: V 5414
It is both inevitable and just that Komitas Vardapet (the title ‘Vardapet’ signifies a celibate priest) should top the bill in a programme of works commemorating the Armenian Genocide. Komitas was born Soghomon Soghomonian in a Turkish village in 1869, a time when there was no border between Armenia and its oppressor Turkey. He is not even mentioned in The Oxford Dictionary of Music, but Aram Khachaturian – whom most people regard as Armenia’s leading composer – declared that it was Komitas, and not he, who laid the foundations for his country’s classical tradition.
Komitas started by singing in church but went on to become an ethnomusicologist avant la lettre, and enjoyed brief celebrity in Berlin and Paris before getting caught up in the genocidal onslaught which destroyed his ability to compose and drove him terminally mad. This CD’s clumsy liner notes gloss over this latter fact, and although its French and German translations of the Armenian essay are literate, its English translation seems to be by uncorrected Google.
Komitas’s glory lay in his choral arrangements of folk songs, but is represented here by two arrangements for violin and piano and seven for piano solo: each has a truthful simplicity and charm, suggesting voice and rudimentary accompaniment with bare octaves and skipping rhythms. The rest of this CD of works by 20th-century composers is unmemorable apart from three exhilarating pieces by Khachaturian (two in arrangements). The other pieces do at least reflect the excellence of Armenia’s conservatoire culture, as do Sergey and Lusine Khachatryan, despite the fact that much of their training has been in Germany. The pleasure of their musicianship is this CD’s real selling point. Michael Church