Varty Manouelian: Serenade with a Dandelion

About

Violinists Varty Manouelian and Movses Pogossian continue their admirable advocacy for the work of Armenian composers with this extensive 4 disc collection of new works, a follow up to their Modulation Necklace release in 2020 (FCR244). Performed by various colleagues of Manouelian and Pogossian's and the UCLA based VEM Ensemble which is devoted to Armenian music, the album is divided into four volumes that focus on instrumental chamber music, art song, and solo piano music. Serenade with a Dandelion is an invaluable resource to explore 20th and 21st century Armenian repertoire, performed with the utmost sensitivity and commitment by Manouelian, Pogossian and their colleagues.

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 270:18
01Serenade with a Dandelion
Serenade with a Dandelion
Varty Manouelian, violin, Movses Pogossian, violin8:50
02Lachrymae
Lachrymae
Jan Berry Baker, tenor saxophone, Varty Manouelian, violin6:58

Sillage

Artur Akshelyan
Danielle Segen, mezzo-soprano, Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello
03I. -
I. -
Danielle Segen, mezzo-soprano, Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello6:26
04II. Ablaze
II. Ablaze
Danielle Segen, mezzo-soprano, Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello6:02
05III. IT
III. IT
Danielle Segen, mezzo-soprano, Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello4:59
06Chameleon
Chameleon
Jan Berry Baker, alto saxophone, Varty Manouelian, violin9:28
07String Quartet No. 2
String Quartet No. 2
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello19:11

Armenian Art Songs I. Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935)

Komitas Vardapet
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
08Ալագեազ բարձր սարին (Across Mount Alagyaz)
Ալագեազ բարձր սարին (Across Mount Alagyaz)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano2:28
09Ես սարէն կու գայի (As I Came Down the Mountain)
Ես սարէն կու գայի (As I Came Down the Mountain)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano2:47
10Քէլէ, քէլէ (Walk On, Walk On!)
Քէլէ, քէլէ (Walk On, Walk On!)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano2:27
11Քէլէ՜ր, ցոլէ՜ր (My Love Walked With a Glow)
Քէլէ՜ր, ցոլէ՜ր (My Love Walked With a Glow)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:16
12Ծիրանի ծառ (Apricot Tree)
Ծիրանի ծառ (Apricot Tree)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:36
13Անտունի (Homeless)
Անտունի (Homeless)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano5:09
14Կռունկ (Crane)
Կռունկ (Crane)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano4:07
15Կանչէ՛, կռունկ (Howl, Crane)
Կանչէ՛, կռունկ (Howl, Crane)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:07

Armenian Art Songs II. Romanos Melikian (1883-1935)

Romanos Melikian
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
16Շափաղ կու տաս (Glowing in the Garden)
Շափաղ կու տաս (Glowing in the Garden)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano1:44
17Մի՛ լար (Weep Not)
Մի՛ լար (Weep Not)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:27

Armenian Art Songs III. Kourken Alemshah (1907-1947)

Kourken Alemshah
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
18Ես սիրեցի (I Loved)
Ես սիրեցի (I Loved)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano2:38
19Իղձ (Wish)
Իղձ (Wish)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano2:42

Armenian Art Songs IV. Tigran Mansurian (b. 1939): Songs from Canti Paralleli

Tigran Mansurian
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano
20Տաղ կորուսեալ սիրելոյ (Ode for the Lost Beloved)
Տաղ կորուսեալ սիրելոյ (Ode for the Lost Beloved)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano5:33
21Վասն սիրոյ (Because of Your Love)
Վասն սիրոյ (Because of Your Love)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:44
22Կապույտ լճի վրա (Over the Blue Lake)
Կապույտ լճի վրա (Over the Blue Lake)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:17
23Եվ մի իրիկուն (And at Eventide)
Եվ մի իրիկուն (And at Eventide)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:35
24Իմ հոգին (My Soul)
Իմ հոգին (My Soul)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano4:57
25Լեռների վրա ձյունել է (Snow Over the Mountains)
Լեռների վրա ձյունել է (Snow Over the Mountains)
Shoushik Barsoumian, soprano, Steven Vanhauwaert, piano3:22
26Wondrous It Is...
Wondrous It Is...
VEM Ensemble, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello4:36

String Quartet

Artur Avanesov
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello
27I. Cognitive Study of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder
I. Cognitive Study of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello2:32
28II. Drammatico
II. Drammatico
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello2:56
29III. Quand l’aubespine fleurit...
III. Quand l’aubespine fleurit...
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello3:00
30IV. All’ungherese
IV. All’ungherese
Movses Pogossian, violin, Andrew McIntosh, violin, Che-Yen Chen, viola, Coleman Itzkoff, cello1:28
31Tremors
Tremors
VEM Ensemble, Hanna Hrybkova, violin, Arutyun Piloyan, violin, Evan Hesketh, viola, Abraham Bonilla, cello, Antonio Lysy, cello14:08
32Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music
Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music
VEM Ensemble, Arutyun Piloyan, violin, Hanna Hrybkova, violin, Evan Hesketh, viola, Abraham Bonilla, cello, Phil O’Connor, clarinet15:15

String Trio, Op. 201

Alan Hovhaness
VEM Ensemble, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello
33I. Adagio
I. Adagio
VEM Ensemble, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello3:45
34II. Allegro
II. Allegro
VEM Ensemble, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello1:37
35III. Lento
III. Lento
VEM Ensemble, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello1:45
36Աղջի, Մէրդ Մեռել Ա / Ta Mère N’est Plus
Աղջի, Մէրդ Մեռել Ա / Ta Mère N’est Plus
Movses Pogossian, violin, Ela Kodžas, violin, Damon Zavala, viola, Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello3:43

A Tale for Two Violins

Kristapor Najarian
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin
37I. Introduction / Over The Plateau
I. Introduction / Over The Plateau
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin3:02
38II. Kef / Festivities (Loy Loy)
II. Kef / Festivities (Loy Loy)
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin1:30
39III. Rendezvous (Ambets Gorav Lousengan)
III. Rendezvous (Ambets Gorav Lousengan)
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin4:20
40IV. Capture (Groung)
IV. Capture (Groung)
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin4:54
41V. Misty Morning / Lament
V. Misty Morning / Lament
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin2:09
42VI. Escape (Nehavent Longa)
VI. Escape (Nehavent Longa)
Ani Kavafian, violin, Ida Kavafian, violin3:23

Feux Follets

Artur Avanesov
Artur Avanesov, piano
43Des Fischers Liebestod
Des Fischers Liebestod
Artur Avanesov, piano6:22
44La Lumineuse
La Lumineuse
Artur Avanesov, piano4:06
45Hommage à herre Grieg
Hommage à herre Grieg
Artur Avanesov, piano0:54
46Intermezzo III
Intermezzo III
Artur Avanesov, piano3:55
47Les coucous
Les coucous
Artur Avanesov, piano3:03
48Hier ist Friede
Hier ist Friede
Artur Avanesov, piano2:30
49Für Hanni
Für Hanni
Artur Avanesov, piano3:53
50Nenia
Nenia
Artur Avanesov, piano4:19
51Intermezzo IV
Intermezzo IV
Artur Avanesov, piano6:24
52Tezeta
Tezeta
Artur Avanesov, piano9:46

Tre-Sonate

Artur Avanesov
Varty Manouelian, violin, Edvard Pogossian, cello, Artur Avanesov, piano
53I. Allegro assai
I. Allegro assai
Varty Manouelian, violin, Edvard Pogossian, cello, Artur Avanesov, piano8:06
54II. Lento
II. Lento
Varty Manouelian, violin, Edvard Pogossian, cello, Artur Avanesov, piano10:57
55III. Presto
III. Presto
Varty Manouelian, violin, Edvard Pogossian, cello, Artur Avanesov, piano8:10

Armenia is a singular nation in possession of a uniquely preserved culture, perched high in the Caucasus mountains with an ancient history. Despite being surrounded by powerful and influential neighbors, Armenia is largely homogenous and preservation of its rich history are prioritized and show up in its artistic communities. Serenade with a Dandelion is a follow up to violinist and curator Movses Pogossian’s Modulation Necklace, also featuring exclusively Armenian repertoire (FCR244), and chronicles a rich contemporary lineage of chamber music and works for voice. Violinist Varty Manouelian and Pogossian continue their admirable advocacy for the work of Armenian composers with this extensive 4 disc collection of new works, a follow up to his Modulation Necklace release in 2020 (FCR244). Performed by various colleagues of Manouelian and Pogossian's and the UCLA based VEM Ensemble which is devoted to Armenian music, the album is divided into four volumes that focus on instrumental chamber music, art song, and solo piano music. Serenade with a Dandelion is an invaluable resource to explore 20th and 21st century Armenian repertoire, performed with the utmost sensitivity and commitment by Manouelian, Pogossian and their colleagues.Pogossian has organized the four discs of Serenade with a Dandelion by instrumentation — the first and third CDs highlight chamber music without piano, the second focuses on art song, and the last on music for piano, mostly featuring solo works but closing with a work for piano trio. Throughout this collection of music spanning nearly a century, one hears several aesthetic continuities. Several of the pieces use folkloric material as their thematic basis, there is a frequent reliance on modal pitch material drawn from the harmonic minor scale, melodic ornamentation especially in melismatic figures is employed frequently, and there is a consciousness of balancing trends within a larger community of concert music with the preservation of an Armenian musical identity. Manouelian and Pogossian and their performer colleagues deliver committed, heartfelt performances, projecting a strong connection to this repertoire.

The first volume in this collection (Volume 2 in the overall Modulation Necklace series) opens and closes with chamber music by Vache Sharafyan, a classmate of Pogossian’s at Yerevan’s Komitas Conservatory (named after the patriarch of modern Armenian composition, Komitas Vardapet). The title piece from 2005 is a musical portrait of the dandelion, airy and light but also fierce in its vibrancy (played with passionate precision by Pogossian and his wife Varty Manouelian). Elastic melodic passages are woven between the two violins, with the occasional microtonal coloristic inflection, impassioned ornamental figures, and angular, quixotic interjections. Sharafyan’s String Quartet #2 (2022) is similarly multi-faceted, though the expressive contrasts are mapped onto a more conscious harmonic and structural framework that binds its nineteen minutes together.

Tigran Mansurian is a towering figure in Armenian music and a living legend, and his work is appropriately well represented in this collection. His mournful Lachrymae (1999) originally for soprano saxophone and viola and arranged here for tenor saxophone and violin fuses the complementary timbres of these two instruments in connective single lines and transparent counterpoint. His Songs from Canti Paralleli (2012) on the second disc achieve a balance between folk influenced material, especially present in the contour and embellishments in mezzo-soprano Shoushik Barsoumian’s vocal line, and more active compositional elements often heard in Steven Vanhauwaert’s finely etched piano part,, ranging from impressionistic voicings to dextrous flourishes. Mansurian’s string quintet Tremors (1990) on the third disc falls in between some of his more easily defined stylistic periods, as he turned away from the avant-garde but had not yet codified his more concrete approach to an Armenian national style. The result is an intuitively guided work that reveals Mansurian’s compositional voice through the lens of polytonal and neo-tonal harmony, performed by the resident chamber group of the UCLA Armenian Music Program, the VEM Ensemble. Martin Ulikhanyan’s Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music (2020) for clarinet quintet points us towards Mansurian’s large catalogue of works for the cinema with attractive modal and tonal settings of several themes.

Artur Avanesov’s music also plays a large role in this project and displays a composer who responds with clever wit and inspiration to the compositional tradition. His Feux Follets is an ever evolving eleven volume collection of solo pieces for piano, meant to be presented at the discretion of the performer, nine of which are heard here with the composer at the keyboard. These pieces reference various musical eras and orientations, engaging in a post-modern reflection on the character piece. Clear folkloric elements exist alongside rumination on Schubert themes, nods to the French harpsichord tradition interrupted by restless harmonies motion, modular motivic play in Les Coucous, an unsettling minor second saturated reimagining of a Berg lieder, and Brahmsian nostalgia in Intermezzo III and IV. Tezeta refers to a pentatonic oriented mode of Ethiopian popular music and explores numerous musical, historical, and cultural links between Armenia and Ethiopia through a cyclical structure that mines each note of the scale as a temporary central pitch. On Wondrous It Is… (2023) for string trio Avanesov arranges an 8th century church hymn by one of the earliest known female music writers, Armenian Khosrovidukht Goghtnatsi, setting it with melismatic lines, at times evoking plainchant. Like Feux Follets, Avanesov’s String Quartet is a work in progress containing movements that can be played in any order or organization. “Cognitive Study of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder” is appropriately unsettling, leaning into dissonant closely spaced intervals in impassioned and disembodied expressive contexts. The microtonal pitch language of “Dramaticco” leads the listener through rhapsodic gestures, eventually closing with a quote from an Armenian folk dance. Both “Quand l’aubespine fleurit…” and “All’ungherese” engage with the practice of setting a pre-existing melody, the first a series of harmonic variations on a French medieval hymn, and the second a Bartokian approach to reimagining an original folkloric melody. Pogossian joins violinist Andrew McIntosh, violist Che-Yen Chen, and cellist Coleman Itzkoff for a performance that navigates the varied textures in the piece with decisive power. His closing neo-Baroque Tre Sonata for piano trio consists of three works that can be presented as a fast-slow-fast set and adopt a high Baroque vernacular only to subtly subvert its conventions.

While only eight of his songs are included in this set, the impact Komitas Vardapet made on modern Armenian music as a whole was foundational. Komitas is the father of Armenian art song, leading the way through his transcriptions of folk materials, resetting for voice and piano in cataloging this rich tradition, and sharing it in a format that brought it to a wider listening public. In these folksongs, the dramatic natural Armenian landscape is often a character in the story in its own right, standing in the way of a reunion of lovers or consoling a broken heart. Komitas’ keyboard parts deftly paint the text, such as the ecstatic harmonic pillars in “Across Mount Alagyaz”or the gentle march rhythm in “My Love Walked with a Glow.” The expressive range of this set of songs is broad, from the devastating fatalism in “Homeless”, to the light hearted flirtation of “Walk On, Walk On!”. Romanos Melikian’s “Glowing in the Garden” features virtuosic keyboard arpeggiations while “Weep Not” is an emotional tour de force for soprano Shoushik Barsoumian. Kourken Alemshah broadens the folk song conception dynamically, affording the performers the opportunity to expand their expressive range in two songs of unrequited love, “I loved” and “Wish.” Barsoumian and Vanhauwaert have an intuitive sense for the sublime simplicity of these songs, subtly highlighting the elegant musical additions each composer has added.

In addition to the set of eight songs on Volume 2, Komitas’ presence is manifest in some of the instrumental works on the recording. Avanesov’s approach to setting pre-existing material emulates Komitas’ reverence for the traditional melody, allowing it to breathe and frame the character of a given setting. Koharik Gazarossian’s Աղջի, Մէրդ Մեռել Ա / Ta Mère N’est Plus (1961) is a romantic setting of a lament that Komitas transcribed in 1913 and later published as an art song in 1950, amplifying the inherent expression in the original song. In contrast, Aregnaz Martirosyan’s Chameleon for alto saxophone and violin contains the collection’s most avant garde music, embedding lyrical snippets from Komitas’ setting of “Loosnakn Anoush” into a texture of timbral discontinuity, fragile multiphonics, nervous pizzicati, flitting key clicks, and off-kilter fragmentary gestures.

Interspersed throughout the collection are works that demonstrate the aesthetic diversity of Armenian music. Artur Akshelyan’s Sillage (2021) for mezzo-soprano and string quartet sets existential poetry by Zareh Melkonian, capturing the spirit of the text through extreme contrasts, from whispered sections of text, evocative vocal embellishments, expansive harmonies over pedal points, pointillistic timbral contrasts, virtuosic moments in individual instruments, and poignant simplicity. Alan Hovhaness was of Armenian and Scottish descent and possessed an omnivorous appetite for studying the music of many cultures, including his ancestral ties to Armenia. His particular attraction to spiritual music is evident in his String Trio (1962), with its mantra-like incantations and a predilection for modal pitch orientation. Kristapor Najarian’s A Tale for Two Violins (2014) contains six short movements and leans heavily into folkloric melodies and material from Armenia and Turkey. The piece is filled with energetic interplay between the two violins reminiscent of Bartok’s iconic violin duos, particularly in the dance music heard in “Kef,” “Rendezvous,” and “Escape.” The pitch material is often generated from a mode of harmonic minor, lending the piece its “Middle Eastern” flavor. The more lyrical moments of the recording are characterized by a healthy vibrato and underscored by Ida and Ani Kavafian’s earthy, violinistic approach.

Despite the copious amount of music contained within, Serenade with a Dandelion demonstrates a musical tradition that rotates around core expressive principles. Taken as a while, these four volumes present a musical lineage that is grounded in traditional material, possesses a distinctive musical vocabulary, while being malleable and evolving to integrate those elements with various trends in concert music over the last 100 years. Varty Manouelian, Movses Pogossian and their colleagues continue to provide an invaluable service through their promotion, advocacy, and archival activities in support of the music of Armenia from the past, the present and the future.

- Dan Lippel

Recorded at the Ostin Music Center, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Los Angeles:
April 17, 2021 (Sharafyan Serenade With a Dandelion)
August 20-22, 2021 (Komitas, Melikian, Alemshah, Mansurian Canti Paralleli)
April 13, 2022 (Mansurian Tremors)
April 22, 2022 (Ulikhanyan Fantasy)
April 13-14, 2023 (Sharafyan Quartet No. 2, Avanesov Quartet, Akshelyan Sillage) May 17, 2023 (Mansurian Lacrhymae, Martirosyan Chameleon)
May 27, 2023 (Avanesov Feux Follets, Tezeta, Tre-Sonate)
May 28, 2023 (Hovhaness, Gazarossian, Avanesov Wondrous It is...)

Recorded at the Rose Studio, Lincoln Center, New York:
December 30, 2022 (Najarian)

Movses Pogossian, Executive Producer
Sergey Parfenov, Recording, Editing, and Post-production
Noriko Okabe, recording engineer (Najarian A Tale for Two Violin)
Kay Rhie, producer (Avanesov String Quartet, Sharafyan Quartet No. 2, Akshelyan Sillage)

This recording has been made with the support of the UCLA Armenian Music Program

Varty Manouelian

Varty Manouelian made her American Debut in 1993 with the North Carolina Symphony as First Prize winner of the Bryan International Competition. Shehas also been a prize winner at a number of other competitions in Europe, including the Kotzian International Competition and the Wieniawski International Violin Competition. Manouelian has recorded and appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras in the United States, Bulgaria, Russia, Armenia, Poland, Spain and Italy. Her chamber music performances include Marlboro Music Festival, Apple Hill Festival, Sebago Festival, El Paso Festival, Olympic Music Festival, among others. She has collaborated as a chamber musician with such artists as Kim Kashkashian, Rohan de Saram, Garrick Ohlsson, Nobuko Imai, Thomas Adès, Yuja Wang, Joshua Bell, and members of the Juilliard, Guarner, Tokyo, Brentano, Borromeo, and Mendelssohn string quartets. Dedicated teacher and educator, Varty Manouelian is a Lecturer of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and spends summers coaching chamber music at the Apple Hill Festival in New Hampshire. Her recent CD of Complete Violin Works of Stefan Wolpe (jointly with Movses Pogossian) made the 2015 Top Ten list in Sunday Times (UK). Varty Manouelian holds degrees from the State Music Academy in Bulgaria and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Boyan Letchev and Donald Weilerstein.

Movses Pogossian

Armenian-born violinist Movses Pogossian made his American debut with the Boston Pops in 1990, about which Boston Globe wrote: “There is freedom in his playing, but also taste and discipline. It was a fiery, centered, and highly musical performance…”. Winner of several international competitions, he has performed worldwide. As a chamber musician, Pogossian has performed with members of the Tokyo, Kronos, and Brentano string quartets, and with such artists as Kim Kashkashian, Jeremy Denk, Lynn Harrell, Ani and Ida Kavafian, and Rohan de Saram. Movses Pogossian was the Founding Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Dilijan Chamber Music Series since 2005 for 15 seasons. A committed champion of new music, Pogossian has premiered over 100 works, and works closely with composers such as G. Kurtág, K. Saariaho, T. Mansurian, Gabriela Lena Frank, Artur Avanesov, and Vache Sharafyan. Pogossian's discography includes the Complete Sonatas and Partitas by J. S. Bach, albums "Inspired by Bach", "Blooming Sounds", "In Nomine”, and “Hommage à Kurtág”. The Bridge Records CD of Complete Violin Works of Stefan Wolpe made the 2015 Top Ten list in Sunday Times (UK), and the 2020 releases of Armenian contemporary music: “Modulation Necklace” (New Focus Recordings) and “Con Anima” (ECM) have garnered critical acclaim. He is a Distinguished Professor of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and also Founder and Advisor of the UCLA Armenian Music Program.

https://schoolofmusic.ucla.edu/people/movses-pogossian/

Jan Berry Baker

Canadian-American saxophonist Jan Berry Baker has performed as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician on many of the world’s great stages. Recent engagements include performances across the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, France, Germany, Scotland, England, Ukraine, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. An advocate of contemporary music, Jan is Co-Artistic Director and saxophonist with Atlanta-based new music ensemble Bent Frequency. Founded in 2003, Bent Frequency brings the avant-garde to life through adventurous and socially conscious programming, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and community engagement. Together with Co-Artistic Director Stuart Gerber, they have commissioned over 50 new works for saxophone and percussion and have given numerous performances of these works across the USA, Mexico, and Europe including their Carnegie Hall debut in 2016. Jan regularly performs with orchestras such as the LA Philharmonic and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet. As an artist and educator, Jan has held residencies at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP), Nürnberg Tage Aktueller Musik, New Music on the Point (VT), and is highly sought after as a masterclass teacher and speaker. Dr. Baker is Professor of Saxophone and Woodwind Area Head at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA.

Danielle Segen

Currently based in Van Buren, Maine, Danielle Segen earned her Bachelor of Music degree at Western Washington University and her Master of Music degree at University of California Los Angeles, where she was seen regularly on the opera stage. Performances included Hermia in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dorabella in Cosí fan tutte, the titular role in both Tragedy of Carmen and in the west coast premiere of William Bolcom’s Lucrezia, and Prince Charming in Massenet’s Cendrillon. Equally at home singing new compositions as she is performing from the standard repertoire of opera and art song, Danielle has been sought after to workshop, record, and perform new works. Recently she recorded “Sillage”, a new work by Armenian composer Artur Akshelyan. Other recent collaborations include premiering and recording “Tekeyan Triptych”, by Artashes Kartalyan, and recording the theme music for “Traces of the Brush,” a critically acclaimed documentary on world renowned Chinese art historian and calligrapher Fu Shen, directed by Eros Zhao and scored by Jeff Kryka. The last nine years have seen Danielle regularly performing Armenian repertoire alongside the VEM String Quartet, in the Spring of 2023 she traveled with the VEM String Quartet to give a series of concerts in Armenia where she also completed a short residency in Dilijan giving lessons, masterclasses, and concerts at local schools.

Andrew McIntosh

Andrew McIntosh is a Grammy-nominated violinist, violist, composer, and baroque violinist who teaches at the California Institute of the Arts, with a wide swath of musical interests ranging from historical performance practice of the Baroque era to improvisation, microtonal tuning systems, and the 20th-century avant-garde. As a baroque performer McIntosh is a member of Tesserae, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Musica Angelica. As a chamber musician he is a member of the Formalist Quartet, Wild Up, and Wadada Leo Smith’s Red Koral Quartet, with whom he recently recorded a 7-CD box set of Smith’s String Quartets 1-12. He has worked personally with a wide range of composers including Christian Wolff, Sofia Gubaidulina, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Helmut Lachenmann, Tom Johnson, and Jürg Frey. As a composer he often works with forms and ideas found in nature or in other artistic disciplines, working in instrumental, vocal, and fixed media forms, and was described by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as “a composer preternaturally attuned to the landscapes and soundscapes of the West". His compositions have been featured at venues including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Ojai Festival, the Gaudeamus Festival, and recent commissions include works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Industry opera company, Yarn/Wire, the Calder Quartet, and violinists Ilya Gringolts, Movses Pogossian, Lorenz Gamma, and Marco Fusi.

http://www.septimalcomma.com/

Che-Yen Chen

Taiwanese-American violist Che-Yen Chen has established himself as an active performer and educator. Since winning First Prize in the 2003 Primrose International Viola Competition and the “President Prize” of the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, he was described as a musician whose “most impressive aspect of his playing was his ability to find not just the subtle emotion, but the humanity hidden in the music.” As the founding and former member of the Formosa Quartet, he won the first prize in the 2006 London International String Quartet Competition, founded the Formosa Chamber Music Festival in Taiwan, and has released recordings on EMI, Delos, New World, and Bridge Records. Chen was the principal violist of the San Diego Symphony and Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra for eight years and has appeared as guest principal viola with Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony. A former Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society Two member, Chen frequently performs and teaches at music festivals across North America and Asia, and is a Professor of Viola Performance and Chamber Music at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Chen joined the renowned Ehnes Quartet in 2023.

Coleman Itzkoff

Hailed by Alex Ross in The New Yorker for his “flawless technique and keen musicality,” cellist Coleman Itzkoff enjoys a diverse career as a soloist, chamber musician, and educator. A prize winner at the 2019 Houston Symphony’s Ima Hogg Competition, Itzkoff made his professional debut at the age of 15 with Ohio’s Dayton Philharmonic and has since appeared as soloist with orchestras and in chamber music series countrywide. Recent season highlights include performances with the Houston Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, American Youth Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, Mason Home Concerts, The Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Caramoor, Texas’s Sarafim Music, and Virginia’s Moss Art Center. Future projects include recitals of baroque and early classical music, several commissions from composers, performing virtually for hospital patients in collaboration with Project: Music Heals Us, and continuing his studies as an Artist Diploma candidate at The Juilliard School. He has collaborated in chamber music with such musicians as violinists Pamela Frank, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Cho-Liang Lin, and Glenn Dicterow; soprano Lucy Shelton; cellists David Finckel and Johannes Moser; violist Roger Tapping; and pianists Gil Kalish and Peter Frankl.

Shoushik Barsoumian

Armenian-American soprano Shoushik Barsoumian began her operatic career in Europe while under the tutelage of Mirella Freni in Modena. Over the next several years, she made house debuts in Italy, Romania, Malta and Austria, and Germany, singing notable roles such as Gilda at the Bucharest National Opera, Musetta at the St. Margarethen Opernfestspiel, Adina at the Teatru Manoel, and Oscar in the theaters of Como, Cremona, Brescia and Pavia. Her interest in the modern and contemporary classical music repertoire further led to performances of Stravinsky’s Svadebka, Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, Berio’s Sequenza III, and world premieres of composers Tigran Mansurian, Ian Krouse, and Arthur Aharonian, all performed with the Lark Musical Society in Los Angeles, California. Shoushik is featured in two releases by Naxos Records, namely as the soprano soloist in Ian Krouse’s Armenian Requiem, performed live at the Royce Hall in Los Angeles, and as La Fata Azzurra in Respighi’s La Bella Dormente nel Bosco, with the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Italy. A third CD release by Naxos Records is scheduled for March 2024, in which she and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert showcase songs from the Armenian Art Song repertoire. During the 2023-2024 season, Shoushik is scheduled to perform works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Wolf-Ferrari, Menotti, and Bernstein with the Gerhart Hauptmann Theater in Görlitz, Germany.

Steven Vanhauwaert

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times for his "impressive clarity, sense of structure and monster technique", Steven Vanhauwaert has garnered a wide array of accolades, amongst which is the First Prize at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. Vanhauwaert has appeared as a soloist at the National Center of the Performing Arts in Beijing, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, the Concertgebouw in Brugge, and the National Philharmonic Hall in Kiev. He has appeared with orchestras including the Pacific Symphony, the Lviv Philharmonic, the Guayaquil Symphony Orchestra, the Reno Chamber Orchestra, the International Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico, the Flemish Symphony, and the Kyiv Kamerata.

He has recorded on the Hortus, Sonarti, ECM, and Bridge labels; and several of his albums have received 5 diapasons in France. He serves as Assistant Professor on the faculty at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Steven Vanhauwaert is a Steinway Artist.

VEM Ensemble

The VEM Ensemble is the cornerstone of the Armenian Music Program at UCLA (Melissa Bilal, Director), which⁠ in its 10 years of existence has become an internationally renowned academic leader in celebrating the richness and diversity of Armenian musical tradition. In residence at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, the VEM has worked with such musicians as Tigran Mansurian, Kim Kashkashian, David Starobin, Armen Hyusnunts, Artur Avanesov, Seth Knopp, and many others. The Ensemble has performed at various venues in Los Angeles including Zipper Hall, Bing Theater, Schoenberg Hall, the Hammer Museum, as well as in Boston, Montreal, Detroit, New Mexico, Colorado, and the Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival in Italy. In his review of their performance in Italy, critic Laurence Vittes writes, “The evening’s most memorable music was made by the VEM Quartet…who laid out Eduard Mirzoyan’s String Quartet with a feline, subtle grace that touched hearts with its gentle melodic content and long-lined eloquence.” The VEM is featured in “Modulation Necklace”, the critically acclaimed CD of Armenian Music by the Naxos-distributed label, New Focus Recordings. The VEM Ensemble has just completed its third Tour of Armenia, which included ten workshops and outreach performances during a residency in the city of Dilijan, as well as formal concerts in Dilijan, Gyumri, and Yerevan.

Antonio Lysy

Antonio Lysy (1963-2024) was an artist of international stature and dedicated pedagogue, and has performed as a soloist in major concert halls worldwide. He has collaborated with distinguished conductors including Yuri Temirkanov, Charles Dutoit, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sandor Vegh, and Kees Bakels, and continues to perform regularly both as a solo, and chamber music artist. Lysy has recorded extensively for CBC Radio, BBC Radio, Classic FM, and other European radio networks. His love and commitment to chamber music is demonstrated by his musical directorship and founding in 1989, of the annual Incontri in Terra di Siena Chamber Music Festival in Tuscany, Italy (www.itslafoce.org). Lysy enjoyd exploring the versatility of the cello’s voice, from Baroque to electric, and was committed to projects which enriched his diverse interests in music. The touring show, “Te Amo, Argentina”, a personal journey through the heart and soul of Argentina’s fascinating culture, featuring solo cello and chamber works, dance, film, and spoken word, has met with widespread acclaim. In the summer of 2003 Lysy accepted the position of Professor of Cello at University of California, Los Angeles, and retired in 2023. Prior to moving to the United States, he held a professorship at McGill University in Montréal.

Phil O’Connor

Clarinetist Phil O'Connor has enjoyed a successful career performing in a wide array of musical environments. As a recording musician, his work is heard throughout all forms of major media. He has an extensive and eclectic place among his peers involved in the recorded arts. Phil has performed more than 500 compositional premieres for clarinets and saxophones, from many of the leading figures in contemporary classical and jazz music idioms. He has performed often with many of Southern California's finest musical organizations including: Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, LA Opera, Long Beach Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Phil has been involved in Broadway pit work for the Pantages and Ahmanson Theaters. He is a regular member of Pasadena Symphony, John Daversa Progressive Big Band, and contemporary music ensemble Xtet. Also, he is a founding member of Creative Underground Los Angeles, which is a multi-media ensemble of all forms of entertainment art. Phil is found frequently contributing back to the rich musical tradition of not only Southern California, but the continental United States, at many educational programs with elementary, middle school, high school, colleges and festivals as a guest clinician and educator.

Ani Kavafian

Violinist Ani Kavafian enjoys a prolific career as a soloist, chamber musician, and professor. She has performed with many of America’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. In the 2019-20 season, she continued her longtime association as an artist of the Chamber Music Society with appearances in New York and on tour. Last summer she participated in several music festivals, including the Heifetz International Institute and the Sarasota Chamber Music, Bridgehampton, Meadowmount, Norfolk, and Angel Fire festivals. She and her sister, violinist and violist Ida Kavafian, have performed with the symphonies of Detroit, Colorado, Tucson, San Antonio, and Cincinnati, and have recorded the music of Mozart and Sarasate on the Nonesuch label. She is a Full Professor at Yale University and has appeared at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall numerous times with colleagues and students from Yale. She has received an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions award and has appeared at the White House on three occasions. Her recordings can be heard on the Nonesuch, RCA, Columbia, Arabesque, and Delos labels. Born in Istanbul of Armenian heritage, Kavafian studied violin in the US with Ara Zerounian and Mischa Mischakoff. She received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School under Ivan Galamian.

Ida Kavafian

Internationally acclaimed as a violist as well as violinist, the versatile Ida Kavafian is an artist-member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and former violinist of the Beaux Arts Trio. For 34 years she has been artistic director of Music from Angel Fire in New Mexico. She was a founder of the Bravo! Colorado festival, serving as its artistic director for ten years; and co-founded the chamber ensembles Opus One, Tashi, and Trio Valtorna. She also performs as a soloist and in recital with her sister, violinist Ani Kavafian. Ms. Kavafian has premiered numerous works, including concertos by Toru Takemitsu and Michael Daugherty, whose Fire and Blood she recorded with the Detroit Symphony. She has toured and recorded with jazz artists Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis, and with fiddler/composer Mark O’Connor. Born in Istanbul of Armenian parentage, Ms. Kavafian is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where she studied with Oscar Shumsky. She resides with her husband, violist Steven Tenenbom, in Philadelphia and Connecticut, where they breed and train prizewinning Hungarian vizsla show dogs. Since 1998 Ms. Kavafian has served on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music. She also teaches at the Juilliard School and the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Artur Avanesov

Artur Avanesov is a composer, performer, and assistant professor of music at the American University of Armenia. Previously he was the chair of the Department of Musical Composition at the Yerevan State Conservatory where he previously studied piano and composition, and pursued postgraduate studies in composition. In 2005, he earned a Doctor of Arts degree with his research on Zen Buddhism in the music of the 20th century. Avanesov took piano master classes as a member of the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland, and with Ensemble Recherche in Freiburg, Germany. He collaborated and performed with world-renowned musicians including Pierre Boulez, Krzystof Penderecki, Rohan de Saram, Kim Kashkashian, Anja Lechner, Vladimir Chernov, Tony Arnold, Tigran Mansurian, Movses Pogossian. His chamber, vocal, choral and piano compositions have been performed internationally, and recorded on major labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Brilliant Classics, New Focus, Albany Records, etc. As a composer and performer, Avanesov contributed to the foundation of a number of Armenian and international contemporary music ensembles, and as a musicologist, his scholarship appeared in various publications.

Edvard Pogossian

Cellist Edvard Pogossian was the proud Overall Winner, Strings Winner, and Audience Prize Winner at the Tunbridge Wells International Music Competition in 2022. As the winner of the Juilliard Concerto Competition, Edvard performed the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations at David Geffen Hall in New York and at the Harris Theater in Chicago with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Itzhak Perlman. The Chicago Tribune praised Edvard’s performance for his “astonishing musical and technical maturity,” as well as his “winning lightness of touch to everything he played, combined with a velvety tone.” He has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Pops, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, and the New Mexico Philharmonic. Edvard attended Yellow Barn and the Marlboro Festival from 2019 to 2022. Highly committed to chamber music, he is a member of Trio Isimsiz, who have performed throughout Europe, most notably at the Wigmore Hall. He is a frequent guest principal cello in the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Vache Sharafyan

Vache Sharafyan is the author of more than hundred compositions including symphonic, chamber, choral, vocal compositions, operas and ballets. Sharafyan’s music is widely performed in his native country, and also worldwide in the prominent music venues. Praised as “stark, mysterious and ultimately majestic” by The New York Times, “complex, deliberate, ultimately captivating...” by the Boston Globe, “the most wonderful... entirely absorbing to the ear and mind” by the Chicago Tribune, the works of Sharafyan were commissioned and/or performed by many outstanding artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, The Hilliard Ensemble, Hover Choir, BMOP, Dresden Symphony Orchestra, MET, Estonian National Male Choir, Sion Fest, Mario Brunello, Quintette à vent de Marseille, OSS, Toronto Sinfonia, Dilijan Chamber Music Series, Movses Pogossian, Suren Bagratuni, Alexander Chaushian, Narek Hakhnazaryan, among others.

Born in Yerevan (Armenia), Sharafyan studied at the Komitas State Conservatory, graduating with a Doctorate in Composition in the class of Professor E. Mirzoyan in 1992. From 1992 to 1996 he taught at the Armenian Theological Seminary in Jerusalem. From 2001 Sharafyan was chosen by Yo-Yo Ma as an official composer for the Silk Road Project Inc. In 2007, “Surgite Gloriae” Viola Concerto by Sharafyan was premiered by Y. Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists at the opening of the Philharmonic Season of at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory Grand Hall, and at the Elba Isola Musicale d’Europa Festival. Sharafyan’s recent premieres include “The Sound of Stone” with animation by Kevork Mourad at the MET (NY, 2018), “Armenian Odyssey” at the Washington National Cathedral, “Four New Seasons” with Almazian Symphony at the Belgrade National Opera Theater, “Amazingly pure and simple things” for piano and choir, and ballet “Gravity” (2022) at the Armenian National Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Tigran Mansurian

Tigran Mansurian was born on 27 January 1939 in Beirut (Lebanon). In 1947 he and his family returned to their homeland in Armenia. After having attended a special music school, Mansurian studied composition at the Yerevan Conservatory, where he subsequently taught music analysis with special emphasis on New Music. Within the space of only a few years he advanced to become one of Armenia’s leading composers. As time went on he developed friendly artistic relationships with composers such as A. Schnittke, S. Gubaidulina and A. Pärt, and with performers such as N. Gutman, K. Kashkashian, A. Lyubimov, and others. In the 1990s, Mansurian served as director of the Yerevan Conservatory. Mansurian’s extensive catalog includes orchestral works, seven concertos for string instruments and orchestra, sonatas for violoncello and piano, three string quartets, choral music, chamber music, and works for solo instruments. Mansurian has said that his models were the Armenian composer Komitas and Claude Debussy. Early in his career he became acquainted with the music of Pierre Boulez, and was soon able to make deft use of complicated modern compositional techniques. In the course of time he developed an increasingly simple and almost liturgical style. Mansurian’s music reflects the heritage of the venerable musical tradition of Armenia, which dates back more than a thousand years. The composer’s sensitivity and his understanding of the spirit of the age find expression in his attempt to rebuild the musical bridges that were destroyed in the final years of the twentieth century.

Artur Akshelyan

Born in Armenia, Artur Akshelyan’s composition studies began at the Komitas State Conservatory with Vartan Adjemian followed by classes with Michael Jarrell and Luis Naon at the Haute Ecole de Musique of Geneva (Switzerland), as well as working under Richard Cornell at Boston University in USA.

He has collaborated with many ensembles and orchestras across Europe and Canada including the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (Montreal), Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), Ensemble Insomnio (Amsterdam), Arditti Quartet (London), Ensemble Moderne Lemanic, Ensemble Contrechamps (Genève), Musique Nouvelles (Bruxelles), Ensemble Divertimento (Milan), Ensemble Pre-art, and festivals such as “Musica Nova” in Helsinki, “Festival Amadeus”, “Gaia Festival” in Geneva, Shanghai New Music Week, Gaudeamus New Music Week in Amsterdam, Abeldoben music festival.

Akshelyan is a recipient of several international awards including prizes at NEM Young Composers International Forum, Geneva competition, “Gaudeamus Honorable Prize” Pre-Art, and others. Recent commissions have been received from Dilijan Chamber Music Series (USA); Festival Flagey (Belgium), Pre-art, Orpheus competition, Foundation Minkoff (Switzerland).

Aregnaz Martirosyan

Armenian composer Aregnaz Martirosyan completed her piano studies at the R. Melikian Music College in Yerevan in 2012, and then at the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory in V. Adjemian’s composition class, graduating with honors in 2017. Aregnaz has been tudying music at the Lucerne Music Hochschule in D. Ammann's composition class since 2019. While in Switzerland, Aregnaz has received commissions from Basel Sinfonietta (2022) — “Kraft”, Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn– “Zeitlos” (2021), Amsterdam Ensemble “Intercontinental” — “Emotional Diversity” (2020), Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra (2020) — “Dreilinden” Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, UCLA Armenian Music Program (2022) — “Chameleon”. Martirosyan's compositions were performed at various important festivals, concerts and workshops. Her composition “501-2” was workshopped by the International Ensemble Modern Academy of Frankfurt at the Lucerne Festival Academy (2022), after which it was premiered in Frankfurt by the Ensemble Modern. Other festivals/workshops include “Grachtenfestival”, Amsterdam/Netherlands (2022), “Münchener Biennale” (2022), “Alpentöne” Festival (2021), “Darmstadt Ferienkurse” (2020), “Zeitgenössische Akademie” (2019). In 2018, Aregnaz was awarded 1st prize and the “Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra Award” at the “Sayat-Nova” International Music Competition in New York. Aregnaz took part at master classes with composers such as Wolfgang Rihm, Heinz Holliger, George Aperghis, Krzysztof Penderecki, Hans Thomalla, Franck Bedrossian, Claude Ledoux, Jean Pierre Deleuze, Simon Steen Andersen, Stefan Prins and Franck Yeznikian.

Komitas Vardapet

Komitas Vardapet (Father Komitas, née Soghomon Soghomonyan) was born in Gudina/Kütahya (then Ottoman Empire, present-day Turkey) where he started his singing career as a church cantor. Orphaned at a young age, he was sent to the Gevorgian Theological Seminary of Holy Echmiadzin in Vagharshapat (then Russian Empire, present-day Armenia). Graduating in 1893 ordained as a celibate priest and well-versed in both Western classical and Armenian liturgical music, he left for Berlin in 1896 on a scholarship to study performance and composition at Richard Schmidt’s private music school. During his time there, he also attended musicology and museum studies classes by Oskar Fleischer, Heinrich Bellermann, and Max Friedländer at the Friedrich Wilhelm University (Humboldt University of Berlin today) and attended the founding meetings of the International Musical Society (Internationale Musikgesellschaft, IMG). Upon his return to Echmiadzin in 1899, he worked as the music teacher of the seminary and the director of the cathedral choir. He continued his music research by collecting, transcribing, and analyzing poetic and melodic variants of folk songs and by studying the history, theory, and notation system of Armenian church music. Throughout the next decade, he paid regular visits to various urban centers in the Caucasus and Europe, formed local choirs and gave concerts of new music he wrote based on his collection of Armenian sacred and secular songs. He presented papers in IMG’s annual conferences, contributed to its journal, and printed a series of his folk song arrangements through music publishers in Europe. Moving to Constantinople in 1910, he focused his strengths on training the younger generation as performers and educators of Armenian music. His efforts toward establishing a conservatory in the Ottoman capital were interrupted by the Armenian Genocide, during which he fell victim to the purge against Armenian intellectuals. As one of the eight survivors from the prison camp he was deported to, he suffered from deteriorating mental health, and was eventually transferred to a clinic in a suburb of Paris, where he spent the rest of his life. Komitas Vardapet is celebrated today for his innovations in creating an Armenian musical language in Western classical forms, by his foundational work in Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, and international music scholarship, and by his pedagogy of forming communal choirs to pass down the rich repertoire he created.

Romanos Melikian

Romanos Melikyan was born in Gyzlar, Dagestan, Russian Empire. He received his primary education at the local parish school, and assumed the position of the choir director of St. Gevorg Church in New Nakhichevan in 1900. In 1902 he graduated from the Diocesan School of New Nakhichevan, where his first music teacher was Gevorg Chorekchyan (Catholicos of All Armenians in 1945-1954). In 1905, Melikian left for Moscow, where he entered the People's Conservatory and led the choir of the Lazarian Lyceum. Poor health and a difficult financial situation forced him to drop out of school and move to Tbilisi (Georgia), where he worked at the Hovnanyan school as a music teacher. From 1910 to 1914 he studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he wrote primarily vocal pieces, including the cycle “Autumn Lines”, the “Ballad”, the song “Murik's Sorrow”, and several Armenian folk songs arrangements. In 1921, the Armenian government invited Melkian to Yerevan to establish a music studio, which became a Conservatory in 1923. In 1924 he established Stepanakert Music College, then moved back to Tbilisi, where he led the music studio of the “Hayartun” for two years, and then went back to Yerevan where he met composer Alexander Spendiaryan. Romanos Melikyan participated in the staging of Spendiaryan's “Almast” opera and the establishment of the Yerevan Opera House. He put forward the idea of concentrating Komitas' musical heritage in Armenia. In 1928 he published the “Emerald” song series, completed the “Zar-var” song series, published two collections: “Children's Songs”, “Pioneer Songs”, etc. Romanos Melikian died on March 30, 1935 in Tbilisi and rests in the Komitas Pantheon in Yerevan.

Kourken Alemshah

Kourken Alemshah was born in an Armenian village in Western Turkey in 1907, and studied at the Mekhitarist School in Constantinople. He continued his education in the Moorat-Raphael School of the Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice, graduating in 1923. He had already shown his talent as a pianist at school, and has pursued musical studies at the Milan Conservatory. His professors saw in him an exceptional talent, along with an ability to skillfully mix Oriental music and popular motifs with European compositional techniques.

Alemshah graduated in 1930 and settled in Paris. In addition to composing, he also founded the “Cilicia” choir, which became a well-known choir in the Armenian community of France. In 1933, at the age of twenty-six, Alemshah was invited to join an Association of Musical Authors, Composers, and Editors of France. In 1937 his work “Armenian Wedding,” a combination of Alemshah’s music with popular songs, won the second prize at the international competition of People’s Music, with the participation of twenty nations. In the 1930s, he composed many works of European inspiration under the pseudonym of Jean Valdonne.

In 1939, Alemshah was appointed to direct the Sipan Komitas choir, which he led until his death. He conducted Armen Tigranian’s “Anoush” opera and the performances of the Armenian Divine Liturgy in a number of French cathedrals. In the fall of 1947, Alemshah visited the United States for a series of concerts. He passed away unexpectedly on December 14, 1947, in Detroit, from a heart attack, a day before his scheduled performance. His funeral was held in New York by the Armenian Catholic clergy, with the participation of the choir of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral.

Martin Ulikhanyan

Martin Ulikhanyan graduated from the Yerevan State Conservatory with majors in composition and clarinet, and continued his education at the San Francisco Conservatory (composition) and the UCLA film scoring program in Los Angeles.

For ten years, he led the “Ulikhanyan Quintet” progressive- jazz band and participated at various international festivals. In 2008, together with his brother Vardan, Ulikhanyan launched the “Ulikhanyan Jazz Club”, which has since become one of the most recognized jazz clubs in Armenia.

Martin Ulikhanyan’s music has been performed in the USA, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russia, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Syria, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, and has received various awards. Currently he is composing in different styles and genres of music, actively collaborating with Armenian State Symphony and philharmonic orchestras, Armenian State Opera theater, and other organizations.

Alan Hovhaness

Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911–June 21, 2000) was an American composer of Armenian and Scottish ancestry. His music is accessible to the lay listener and often evokes a mood of mystery or contemplation. The Boston Globe music critic Richard Buell wrote: “Although he has been stereotyped as a self-consciously Armenian composer, his output assimilates the music of many cultures. What may be most American about all of it is the way it turns its materials into a kind of exoticism. The atmosphere is hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic.” Hovhaness was among the most prolific of 20th century composers, his official catalog comprising 67 numbered symphonies (surviving manuscripts indicate over 70) and 434 opus numbers. The true tally is well over 500 surviving works since many opus numbers comprise two or more distinct works.

Koharik Gazarossian

Composer, pianist, and music educator Koharik Gazarossian (Koharig Ghazarosyan) was born in Constantinople/Istanbul in 1907. Graduating the Paris Conservatory, she toured Europe, the USA, Lebanon, and Egypt performing as a concert pianist in major concert venues including the Carnegie Hall, Salle Gaveau, and the Wigmore Hall. She composed piano, chamber, and vocal works, a small part of which were published during her lifetime by Éditions Durand and Éditions Choudens in Paris and appeared in Armenian periodicals.

Based in Turkey and France, Gazarossian became a liaison between musicians in her native community, Armenia, and the diaspora by organizing and hosting numerous concerts in Istanbul. She was an active member of a circle of Armenian feminist intellectuals, writers, and artists in Istanbul and one of the first woman composers of the Republic of Turkey. Her archive is now housed at Yerevan’s Matenadaran, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts.

Kristapor Najarian

Composer and violinist Kristapor Allen Najarian has an eclectic and flourishing career in music. As a composer, Mr. Najarian has seen his music performed across the United States as well as internationally, having been featured in such arenas as the Dilijan Chamber Music Series (Los Angeles), Music from Angel Fire Festival (New Mexico), Chamber Music Northwest (Portland), the Starling-Delay Violin Symposium at the Juilliard School (New York), Newport String Project (Rhode Island), Salle Cortot (Paris), the Yerevan Perspectives International Music Festival (Armenia), the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO, among several others. His catalog includes solo, chamber, and orchestral works. Mr. Najarian’s music has been performed by many esteemed instrumentalists of today, including Ani and Ida Kavafian, Movses Pogossian, Antonio Lysy, and Ambroise Aubrun.

Mr. Najarian holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from UCLA, as well as a Diplôme Supérieure and Certificat de Perfectionnement in composition from the École Normale de Musique in Paris. His mentors in composition include Éric Tanguy, Ian Krouse, and Roger Bourland, and for the violin, Anne Thatcher, Movses Pogossian, and Guillaume Sutre.


Reviews

5

Fanfare

This is a project of huge dimensions; an interview as vast as the preceding review explains the thoughts, ideas, and ambitions behind it. The greatest celebration of Armenian music I have ever come across, the release of the four-disc Serenade with a Dandelion is a cause for much celebration.

We begin this set (in the Modulation Necklace Series, Volume 2—see Fanfare 43:5 for my review of Volume 1) with a piece for two violins by Vache Sharafyan (b. 1966). An exquisite performance of that piece gives the set its title, Serenade with a Dandelion. It is scored for two violins, with Pogossian being joined by Varty Manouelian (they are also the piece’s dedicatees). The piece is a tribute to the players, but also to the humble dandelion: “Softness and lightness, freedom of imaginary flight, the transparency of the dandelion seemed very close to the kernel of this Serenade,” says the composer. The piece is a tribute to this much maligned plant (not a weed, and one with astonishing healing properties). Sharafyan’s piece is intended as a musical “translation” of the dandelion that opens us to deeper worlds; its transcendental aspect is beautifully conveyed in this performance, while the harmonic language and melodic twists, so characteristic of Armenia, play gently with the listener’s soul. Pogossian and Manouelian are like one expanded violin at times; the one is an extension of the other, the very quintessence of chamber music. Amazingly, the set keeps up this level of musical excellence over its four-plus hours.

Coming in at just under 20 minutes is Sharafyan’s String Quartet No. 2 (dating from as recently as 2022). It is constructed in “chain” form, in which each section “births” the next. Such a natural analogy is perfectly apt; there is indeed something wholesomely organic about this piece. Overarching this is the framework of a sonata form. The performance is spot-on. This is like a super-intense Janáček, with an emphasis on small motifs repeated to create motion, but with a more Armenian accent. Sudden chordal, chorale-like sections take on huge emotive depth. If that sounds intriguing, so it should. The performance is superb, as is the recording (which is close enough that anacrusic sniffs from the performers register). The climax is remarkable: Grinding, hyper-dissonant chords are contrasted with consonance or single lines. This piece could go on to establish a place in the string quartet repertoire; if there is any justice, it will. And how those individual lines sing in this performance.

(As to my previous experience of Sharafyan’s music, see my review of his Petrified Dance—a dance of mourning for fallen Armenian soldiers—on a Cedille disc by the Aznovoorian Duo. A recording of Sharafyan’s Piano Trio No. 2, “Of Thoughts in One Movement,” on the Albany label looks well worth seeking out; the disc was featured in Fanfare 34:5.)

The name of Tigran Mansurian is better known; his first offering here is the remarkable Lachrymae (1999) for alto saxophone and violin. If that sounds like an unlikely combination, Mansurian quickly offers a correction: There are timbral equivalences and shiftings in this restrained, quiet piece that offers an equal dialog. Originally written for soprano saxophone and viola, this is a new version by the composer, who has rightly praised this intensely concentrated performance by Jan Berry Baker (sax) and Varty Manouelian (violin). The close is pure magic, a model of perfection in terms of structural preparation (by the composer) and achievement (by the performers). This piece finds its complement in Chameleon (2022) by Aregnaz Martirosyan (b. 1993): the same performers are featured, but with Baker now on alto sax. We will meet Komitas himself later, but here we have a piece of his used as “source material,” the song Loosnakn Anoush. The traditional here meets the modernist in no uncertain terms. The music is in a state of continuous change (hence the title, Chameleon). This is virtuosic for both instrumentalists in terms of their individual lines, but it is also a virtuoso piece for duet, and Baker and Manouelian excel. Baker’s extended techniques are particularly impressive, not least the multiphonics performed with a precision and control rarely encountered, even in the recording studio. As a composition, perhaps this cedes to some of the other pieces on this set in terms of memorability, but there is no doubting the compelling nature of Baker and Manouelian’s account.

The mezzo Danielle Segen is superb; the sheer intensity of her singing of Sillage (2021) by Artur Akshelyan (b. 1984) is astonishing in its perfection. Every phrase is expressively molded; Segen’s legato is impeccable, with her tone slightly blanched to maximal effect. These settings of Zareh Melkonian’s IT are more modernist than the pieces heard heretofore; the second movement, “From the future’s icy storm ...,” in particular is the product of an imagination well worth following. The use of voice with string quartet is highly engaging; the central piece, “Ablaze,” is remarkable in its wide-ranging vistas. Segen’s pitching here is noteworthy, given the difficult, wide intervals she is sometimes asked to negotiate. Her voice is strong throughout her range. The close recording adds to the excitement of the strings’ more frenetic moments. The finale, also entitled “IT,” speaks of the void in its icy coldness (“IT was “the void / vitalizing yet shattering”). Harmonies strive for warmth, but that iciness pervades all. Tender descending phrases suddenly swoop like a bird’s flight.

The second disc (Modulation Necklace Series, Volume 3) concentrates on Armenian art song, heard here in the safe hands of soprano Shoushik Barsoumian and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert. The songs of Komitas Vardapet (1869–1935) inhabit a world of their own; the first one we hear, Across Mount Alagyaz, seems timeless, but geographically specific in its way with melody and melisma. And if there is a representative song of Komitas’s trademark simplicity of utterance, As I Came Down the Mountain is a prime candidate, sparse of texture and all the more impactful for it. The song Walk On, Walk On is utterly charming, with the purity of Barsoumian’s voice matched by the clarity of Vanhauwaert’s playing. It is the power of the octaves in the piano that transports My Love Walked with a Glow to whole other realms. The woeful O Apricot Tree is laden with sorrow, with minimal means again achieving maximal ends. The performance’s success stems in no small part from Barsoumian’s control: She uses little vibrato, yet sustains the long notes perfectly, and her diction is (as far as I can tell) superb. It certainly never interrupts the phrase. The piano’s tolling for Homeless, unhurried yet unstoppable, forms the basis for the vocal melismas.

The significance of the crane (the bird, not the machine) in Armenian music and poetry is discussed in the above interview. Komitas offers two songs here: one is simply titled Crane, the other Howl, Crane. The first includes some harmonies of unexpected warmth pitted against the yearning of the bass’s open drone. This is a song of longing, for the bird’s “voice,” for news from faraway lands. Its companion piece is about the arrival of spring. But this is no Austro-Germanic celebration of joy; instead, Komitas speaks about an “open wound” in the heart. “Clotted blood runs in this exile’s heart,” and how the music reflects that pain perfectly. Komitas emerges as one of the finest song composers, and one who should certainly be seen and heard more often on recital programs.

The music of Romanos Melikian (1883–1935) has occasionally turned up in Fanfare’s pages, perhaps most notably his Emerald Songs on a disc on the Brilliant Classics label, performed by Miriam Sarkissian and Artur Avanesov (the latter familiar from the present set) reviewed by Henry Fogel in 39:6. Melikian’s music seems even more shot through with nostalgic pain. Glowing in the Garden is a haunting song indeed; “Weep Not” (or, “Don’t Cry” on the Brilliant disc) from the Emerald Songs is hardly less so. There is no doubting that the New Focus recording on the new set is infinitely preferable to the one on the Brilliant Classics label; the shallowness of the piano sound in the latter is most distracting. Barsoumian is a finer singer than Sarkissian, too, her voice firmer, rounder, plus, Vanhauwaert’s playing is more sophisticated than Avanesov’s. In the newer performance, the song unfolds far more naturally.

The cruelly short-lived Kourken Alemshah (1907–47) makes his Fanfare Archive debut here with two brief songs, I Loved and Wish. How fantastically Barsoumian soars in the first; Wish is more overtly dramatic. Finally, there comes a set of six songs by Mansurian from the 2012 cycle Canti Paralleli. There is nowhere near as much Mansurian on the Fanfare Archive as I expected, or as he deserves. How dark is the “Song for the Beloved” (to a poem by Paghtsagar Dpir), a song of a lost (female) love sung by the male protagonist, here taken by a female singer. The sense of loss is palpable, though, not least through Barsoumian’s magnificent inflections of line. There’s no doubting the internal tempests of “Because of your love,” either; note too how clearly Barsoumian articulates the melismas, and how the rich chords of Vanhauwaert’s piano add so much to the storytelling. The idyllic image of a white swan over a blue lake in Yeghishe Charents’s poem inspires the composer to preternatural beauty in “Over the Blue Lake”; melodic imitations in the piano seem like reflections in water. There is so much beauty here: Try the crepuscular “And at Eventide,” a song that starkly contrasts to the monumental muscularity of “My Soul” (“My soul is like a wondering bird / Storm-stricken, clipped of wings”). It is left to “Snow over the Mountains” to close the second disc, full of mystery and wonder. The sparse textures hearken back to Komitas, and yet Mansurian has his own voice. This is a fabulous disc.

Scored for string trio and performed by members of the VEM Ensemble (Ela Kodžas, violin; Damon Zavala, viola; Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello), Artur Avanesov’s Wondrous It Is... from 2023 is compact and expressive, with a surprise close. It is actually an arrangement of a “sharakan” (church hymn) by the eighth-century composer Kosrovidukht Goghtnatsi, and emerges as deeply pious and religious. It is followed by Avanesov’s String Quartet (2019–23 to date). This is a work in progress: Eventually it will comprise many discrete units that may be played in any order. Currently there are four, which makes it “look” like a traditional quartet; three of these are linked to the composer’s Feux follets series. The atmosphere of “Cognitive Study of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder” is post-Bergian, saturated with chromaticism and achingly expressive. It is followed by a “Drammatico” that moves closer to echt-Armenian tropes. None of this can prepare the listener for the innocent beauty of the third movement, “Quand l’aubespine fleurit” (When the hawthorn blooms). It is a set of variations on a medieval French chanson, where the ancient meets the modern in ingenious fashion: Avanesov is a master at this, as much as he is at interiorizing an “All’ungherese” for the finale. The performance is tender and caring, and burrows deep into Avanesov’s world.

A string quintet piece by Mansurian, Tremors, is expertly placed in the program, as it prefaces Martin Ulikhanyan’s Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music. Written for the Chilingirian Quartet plus one (it is scored for a string quintet with two cellos), Tremors is a transitional work that embraces the modernist tendencies of the composer’s earlier works; although rarely performed, it exudes its own magnificence. Sometimes when one tries to “place” a piece of music, either in the context of a composer’s output or in a wider historical sense, one loses the individuality of the work itself. There’s no chance of that occurring in this performance by members of the VEM Ensemble (Hanna Hrybkova and Arutyun Piloyan, violins; Evan Hesketh, viola; Abraham Bonilla and Antonio Lysy, cellos). The work’s dark center is bleedingly exposed; the cris de cœur towards the close is as expressive as any Second Viennese School Urschrei. The close is extraordinary, a briefly pulsating final cry that leads to silence.

A slightly different line-up from the VEM Ensemble (Arutyun Piloyan and Hanna Hrybkova, violins; Evan Hesketh, viola; Abraham Bonilla, cello; Phil O’Connor, clarinet) performs the Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music (2020) by Martin Ulikhanyan (b. 1981). This could easily become mawkish (the filmic origins are obvious), but instead one hears a piece of sweet expressivity. The films in question are A Piece of Sky, The Tango of Our Childhood, Way Station, Lyrical March, and The Song of the Old Days In delivering a well-constructed tapestry, Ulikhanyan demonstrates great skill as a composer, who states that this piece is an expression of his “love and deep respect” for Mansurian’s music. The language is approachably modal, the performance superb. Clarinetist Phil O’Connor is remarkable in imbuing each line and gesture with character. A sweet clarinet/violin duet towards the close is a notable beauty spot.

Unlike Martin Ulikhanyan, the name of Alan Hovhaness (an American of Scottish/Armenian descent) will need no introduction. His 1962 String Trio receives a hypnotic performance by members of the VEM Ensemble (this time with Ela Kodžas, violin; Damon Zavala, viola; Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello). The music is consistently fascinating and individual, the first movement (Adagio) a harmonic continuum of circularities before a hailstorm of pizzicato underpins a folkish melody in the central Allegro. This is the disturbance in between two slow movements, a brief moment of unsettlement before a Lento that takes the listener to more modernist territory. Ostinato is a key factor to this chameleon-like, ever-shifting work. The performance is extraordinary; one wishes for much more. Performances of this piece are rare on record: an OgreOgress audio DVD was reviewed in Fanfare 34:1 by Walter Simmons, and there is a performance on Centaur by the Concordia String Trio, but it is difficult to imagine a finer performance than this one.

There are only two entries in the Fanfare Archive for Turkish-born, French-trained Koharik Gazarossian (1907–67), and one of those is only a single piano prelude; the other is a recent release of 24 Etudes performed by Nare Karoyan on the Piano label (Fanfare 46:6). Here, we have another “snippet,” the short Ta mère n’est plus of 1961 for string quartet, with the VEM Ensemble again (here, Movses Pogossian and Ela Kodžas, violins; Damon Zavala, viola; Niall Tarō Ferguson, cello). The first violin lines are particularly sweet-toned from Pogossian. Written in Paris, the piece is absolutely lovely. Inspired by an achingly beautiful melody transcribed by Komitas from the village of Arazap in Armenia, it is just a pity that it is so short. Finally, there comes A Tale for Two Violins by Kristapor Najarian (b. 1991), another newcomer to the Fanfare Archive. The six movements, each with its own descriptive title, are performed by Ani and Ida Kavafian. Written in 2012–14, the piece invites listeners to create their own stories, while the Armenian and Turkish musical tropes help place the locale of the tale. The Kavafians gave the world premiere of this piece in Los Angeles in 2014. The music seems to speak of a fierce devotion to the music of the Middle East, especially Armenia and Turkey. Both Ani Kavafian and Ida Kavafian play with huge spirit and a sense of earthy authenticity. Frankly, it’s like listening to good Bartók in folkish mode (with apologies to admirers of that composer). The third movement, “Rendezvous: Ambets Gorav Lousengan,” is a particular romp, but it is the cadential ascending gesture over a trill that so lodges in the memory. The solo violin line that opens “Capture” is poignant indeed, and Ani Kavafian captures its tenor perfectly; the second violin here is almost orchestral in function. The movement rises to an ecstatic dance, its abandon perfectly captured here while (somehow) both fiddlers maintain technical perfection. The slow heart of the piece is the penultimate movement, a lament (“Misty Morning”), in which the slowly shifting second part underpins a regionally-inflected melody of mourning. The maintenance of a quiet dynamic at the movement’s close and its careful calibration is most impressive. It is only left to the exciting, buzzing finale, “Escape,” to bring our adventure to a close. Arco and pizzicato meet in the most thrilling ways.

The fourth and final disc comprises over 72 minutes of music by Artur Avanesov. The excerpts from Feux follets(Frenzied Flames) take us into hitherto uncharted realms. The first piece, “Des Fischers Liebestod,” is distorted Schubert, including a visitation to the valedictory plane of “Der Leiermann” from Winterreise. The movement’s title is a play on the Schubert Lied Des Fischers Liebesglück, a song which plays with disjunction between mood and text. Other famous songs are encountered in this, a mini “Schubertreise”: Der Tod und das Mädchen and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen. Although these are all premiere recordings, it is impossible to imagine a finer performance (and one naturally wonders what Avanesov would be like in pure Schubert). The second, “La lumineuse,” references French harpsichord music in its ornamentation; unexpected harmonic twists and resolutions represent breaks in clouds, and therefore increased luminosity. A stunning amalgam of the court of Louis XIV and Armenian traditional music (I’m not sure I ever expected to write a sentence like that), this works beautifully, with the swerves into Armenian territory adding sudden tinges of melancholy. It is Grieg who receives the treatment next, in “Hommage à herre Grieg,” Avanesov’s absorption of the Norwegian composer’s late style. Short but highly effective, it is a heart-based internalization.

One could play a listening game here: Which composer is Avanesov working with in each instance? Pretty much everyone would guess the next one, I expect: “Intermezzo III” references late Brahms. The necessary tropes are all present and correct, but nicely twisted into Avanesov territory. In his own booklet notes, the composer posits that “no longer perceived as an ‘intermediary play’ between larger, more important, movements, intermezzo is interpreted as a moment of meditative suspense between existence and non-existence.” The sense of a slowly-rotating kaleidoscope is irresistible. The cuckoo has inspired music before, of course (think Daquin); here he is again, in “Les Coucous.” The original Armenian title includes a pun reserved for Armenian speakers, in which there is a play on duality and “two cuckoos.” Avanesov brings out the post-Impressionist side of the music to perfection. A direct quote from Berg’s op. 4 Altenberg-Lieder is represented in the title of the next movement, “Hier ist Freude.” Berg’s already Expressionist line is taken for a walk into even headier waters. Written in 2020 during the Second Artsakh War, the piece plumbs profound depths. It more searches than meanders for a way to the light, and Avanesov’s own performance is heartrending. An in memoriam for an acquaintance who perished in the COVID pandemic, “Für Hanni” presents the power of dissonant dyads in what the composer calls a “gradual chromatic, winding-stair-like ascent” (shades of Ligeti there, perhaps!). There is also a Minimalist element here; the music’s ascent perhaps mirrors that of Hanni’s spirit to the Light, and its dissolution to a single repeated note is most affecting. Another in memoriam, “Nenia” references both Bartók and Kurtág (composers who have both used this title). To my ears, the latter more than the former is in evidence, and the result is music of extreme Angst. A consonant harmonic arrival offers little repose. This is a wonderful piece. How great the contrast is to “Intermezzo IV,” this time referencing Mahler, Kreisler, and Josef Marx.

The stand-alone Tezeta (2022) is a dual reference in Ethiopian music, both to a pentatonic mode and a subgenre. In Amharic, “tezeta” means “longing,” specifically a longing for something that will never return (we are told that there is an Armenian equivalent in the word “karōt”). At pains to illuminate the many connections between Armenian and Ethiopian cultures, the composer offers what is surely a unique piece. Cast in spiral form (modulations based on the aforementioned pentatonic mode, returning to the original but at a higher registral level), this is a phenomenally interesting piece. It is not for one listening; the musical surface is as rich as the harmonic and formal structure. The composer’s own performance brings more than a hint of slowly building ecstasy. Neither is this an easy piece; the fast swirls are beautifully articulated, while careful pedaling ensuring complete clarity. The climax is significant; the post-climactic plane is a place of profound peace.

The instant “warming” of sound for the first of the Tre Sonate (2022) is almost startling. These three little sonatas for piano trio are re-creations of the Baroque world and can be played together or separately (together they form an arch structure). This is the perfect close to the set: The piece is infinitely skillful and yet always delightful. The first sonata takes tropes from Domenico Scarlatti’s many keyboard sonatas and distorts them brilliantly. The performance is playful (all credit is due to violinist Varty Manouelian for those fast descents) and as brilliant as a Scarlatti sonata on the harpsichord. The first veers into almost Romantic territory at one point, and satisfyingly so. The slow central panel, a Lento, is an 11-minute aria for cello, expressively performed by Edvard Pogossian. There is something Bachian about the long line against pizzicato violin and short piano chords. When the violin and cello intertwine in duet, the effect is magical. It is lovely to have the finale performed at a true Presto and yet to hear every note clearly, a testament to all three players’ excellence. Ingeniously, over its course it covers all twelve key centers through a sequence of clever modulations (a “modulation necklace” of its own, perhaps!). The exposition and recapitulation of this sonata-like movement contain only major keys; the development sticks to the minor keys. Furthermore, cadences appear every 27 (three squared) measures. A positively Bachian interest in numbers is therefore present; to add even more to the fun, parts of the keyboard part are notated as a “cyphered bass.” It’s terrific in every respect.

The recording quality throughout is equivalent to the excellence of the performances. This set is a major achievement in each and every way, including fine documentation. Colin Clarke

— Colin Clarke, 2.15.2024

5

Fanfare

Many listeners, including reviewers, will be daunted by the prospect of four CDs devoted to Armenian chamber music of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the headnote is a bewildering thicket of names unknown outside Armenia. Good intentions count, and these performances are clearly a labor of love, the quality at times rising to an exceptional level of technique and musicality. But there needs to be an overriding reason for a general listener to explore this deluxe package, which I aim to provide. I’ve sporadically encountered a disc devoted to Armenian classical music—the last one was by the stunning violinist Sergey Khachatryan in 2015, a beautiful recital springing from a sad purpose, to commemorate the centennial of the tragic Armenian genocide committed by Turkey under the cloak of World War I.

The set under review serves a different aim, reaching out to the larger music world from a small country whose artists and musicians are fierce loyalists. The expatriate Armenian community in Los Angeles gave rise to a series of concerts featuring contemporary Armenian composers. The founder of the Dilijan Chamber Music Series was violinist Movses Pogossian,

who had moved with his family to L.A. in 2004. For the next 15 seasons a rich array of composers and compositions emerged, including over 50 world premieres. Pogossian and his wife, Varty Manouelian, who is also a violinist, are superb musicians, as can be heard in the opening work on CD 1, a fascinating violin duo by Vache Sharafyan. As a way to dip your toe in the water, a stream or download of their scintillating performance will be a strong motivation for exploring further.

The Sharafyan pieces, titled Serenade with a Dandelion, is the collection’s title track; it was also on the first program of the Dilijan series. As you’d expect, the composers and performers gathered here are closely knit as friends, colleagues, and collaborators. That raises an issue for general listeners. What justifies these works beyond cultural ties to Armenia? There are strong elements of folk music at work, but in general the idioms being represented fall into the eclecticism that prevails internationally today. There is no worry about provincialism. One mystifying aspect, however, is the title Modulation Necklace that serves as the rubric for all four discs. It refers to “a string of different modal constructions” rooted in Armenian folk music. This collection is an extension of an initial release titled Modulation Necklace from 2020 on the New Focus label.

I’ve devoted considerable space to pricking the reader’s curiosity, but what counts, after all, is the music, which I will cover one CD at a time.

CD 1: We begin with five assorted chamber works, of which two are string quartets, one is part of a vocal cycle, and three are duos. I mentioned the remarkable quality of the first duo, Sharafyan’s Serenade with Dandelion. The two violins are in giddy constant motion on separate, sometimes intersecting courses, bright with trills and engaging thematic material. The idiom is contemporary but personal and captivating—it is hard to imagine a more inviting entry point for the collection. More challenging but equally arresting is Sharafyan’s String Quartet No. 2, built in linear fashion out of strongly contrasting sections. The mood ranges from serenely contemplative to agitated, and to hold the structure together there are nods to sonata form.

The other piece with string quartet is a mysterious three-movement vocal work, Sillage, by Artur Akshelyan (b. 1984), whose often fragmentary setting of texts by poet Zareh Melkonian feels not too distantly related to Ligeti. In the second movement much of the text is whispered by mezzo-soprano Danielle Segen; her singing is quite lovely throughout. The quartet writing tends to be tonal and often melodic; the texts refer to a mystical entity, IT, which represents an almost Buddhist concept of the totality of existence.

We get twin duos for violin and saxophone that achieve an adroit blend of two very disparate instruments, but in contrasting ways. As the title suggests, Lachrymae by Tigran Mansurian (b. 1939) is an expression of mourning whose spare textures are parsed in minimal but deeply felt lines for violin and tenor saxophone. Chameleon, by Aregnaz Martirosyan (b. 1993), takes a totally divergent tack, exploiting the virtuosic side of the violin and alto sax in disjointed, frenetic action.

CD 2: This disc is devoted to Armenian art songs and is different from the other three discs. In miniature the program recapitulates the history of Armenian art songs from their beginning as arrangements of folk melodies gathered in the field to their present sophisticated state. As widely known as the field collecting by Bartók and Kodály is, the contribution made by Komitas Vardapet (1869–1935) to Armenian music is greater—Komitas is revered as the father of Armenian classical music (his career as a composer ended tragically when he was arrested during the 1915 genocide and witnessed its horrors, which led to a nervous breakdown and severe post-traumatic stress disorder).

The 18 songs from four composers that appear here are sung with deep commitment and admirable musicality by lyric soprano Shoushik Barsoumian. She and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert applied themselves to master the stylistic evolution that begins with the almost raw, open sound of Komitas’s folk arrangements, leading us through the steps represented by his musical heirs. Modal harmonies remain over the decades, as does Middle Eastern melisma, but there is more complexity in the songs by Romano Melikian (1883–1935) and Kourken Alemshad (1907–1947). Woven into the perennial themes of love and longing is the atmosphere of mountain life as both hardship and transcendence.

The original folk songs have an undeniable power and exoticism, but I think the general listener will get the most out of the four sophisticated songs by the contemporary composer Tigran Mansurian—he is a major figure among Armenian modernists—whose Canti Paralleli from 2012 manage to merge classic Armenian folk elements within a broad European setting. A cherished style at home now speaks to a wider world. Here Barsoumian adapts beautifully in her singing, showing the subtlety and refinement one expects from a French mélodie, for example, and revealing the lyrical beauty of her timbre.

CD 3: We return to the main track with a spectrum of chamber music for strings—a duo, three trios, two quartets, and a quintet with clarinet. The dates cover a wide span from the early 1960s (including Alan Hovhaness’s String Trio from 1962) to two new works from 2023 by Artur Avanesov. To keep this long review from unreasonably spilling over, I’ll limit my focus. Throughout this disc the historic influence of Komitas and the Armenian folk tradition weaves its way. A Tale for Two Violins is a musical adventure story based on the folk melodies that the composer, Kristapor Najarian (b. 1990), heard at home growing up. The old material gets vibrant new life in an imaginary narrative moving with evocative titles that the listener is invited to fill in with his own imagination (a sample: “Festivities,” “Rendezvous,” “Capture,” “Escape”).

Probing to the deep origins of Armenian culture in the 8th century, Artur Avanesov applies a postmodern imagination to ancient musical and literary fragments in a very impressive mélange. Taking a leaf from Ligeti, he writes “works in progress” that grow continuously as miniatures that can be played in any order. His String Quartet is represented by the four movements completed between 2019 and 2023. Space limitations forbid me from describing the ancient roots, secular and religious, that are woven into this work except to say that the result is genuinely haunting.

The musical languages encountered in the seven pieces on this disc vary, but to a general listener the feeling of warmth and heartfelt expression that envelops everything is unmistakable (excluding Hovhaness’s five-minute String Trio, an oddball concoction of the kind he apparently could spin off any time that an indiscriminate idea struck his fancy).

CD 4: After admiring several pieces by Artur Avanesov on the precious discs, I wasn’t surprised that he receives an entire CD to himself. Feux follets for solo piano is a major instance of borrowing Ligeti’s process of accumulating large numbers of small works as they proliferate into collections that span years. In Avanesov’s case, he informs us that Feux follets now amounts to over 100 pieces, of which nine are excerpted here. (The title is poetically translated here as “Frenzied flames,” but when it appears as one of Liszt’s Transcendental Études, it depicts fleeting luminescence, whether called marsh gas or will-o-the-wisp.)

In fairness to Avanesov’s impressive talent, this CD deserves a long review of its own, which it isn’t going to get, unfortunately. Moscow-born and now 44, Avanesov rose as a pianist and composer through educational phases largely spent in Armenia; he has taught since 2005 at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan. The Feux follets pieces are immediately appealing

because of their strong pull toward melody, atmosphere, and tonal-modal harmony. Some have an arresting simplicity that make you imagine you are hearing an Armenian Satie or Mompou.

Far more intricate and virtuosic is Tezeta (translated as “longing,” with overtones of regret for what will never return), a 10-minute fantasia based on each note of the pentatonic scale. The work’s cultural origin is unique, being taken from popular music forms in Ethiopia, which has unexpected ties with Armenia. (Avanesov is scholarly and explains his compositions in detailed, informative notes.) He is the pianist in both works, and is joined by violin and cello in Tre Sonate from 2022. It is very nearly a Baroque pastiche in three movements (fast-slow-fast) that revolve respectively around Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard style, Johann Sebastian Bach (with a brief quote from the St. John Passion), and early Classical sonata form. The mood is vivacious and sparkling in the two outer movements, aria-like in the middle. Armenia isn’t invoked, for the first time in the collection.

Movses Pogossian is the mover and shaker behind this recording project, which occupied a span from 2021 to 2023, but its musical reach extends from L.A. to Yerevan and beyond. I haven’t singled out many performers, for the happy reason that all are first-rate. The recorded sound is impeccable, and the lavishly illustrated booklet offers extensive annotations. Armenia’s history of struggle is due to its location between East and West, buffeted between mighty forces—Islam, Christianity, the Ottomans, and Russians—along with untold suffering in war and the unique horror of a genocide that killed somewhere between 600,000 and 1.2 million Armenians.

No wonder that an unbroken—and unbreakable—bond unites Armenia and the diaspora of its emigrants across the oceans. That the joy and beauty of the music gathered here can still be so abundantly felt is more than heartwarming. It has been a people’s salvation.

— Huntley Dent, 2.15.2024

5

Fanfare

The sub-title to this ambitious, beautifully produced, and musically rich set of references Armenian music old and new, but these descriptors mean different things in different cultures. The oldest music here consists of a disc of Armenian art songs, mostly grouped in the first half of the 20th century, including the work of Komitas (1869–1935), who is widely considered to be the founder of the modern school of Armenian music. That vintage is barely old in any number of artistic traditions. The new material by living composers, which includes the bulk of the works here, is music that hews strongly to traditional, often folk-oriented sources. Apparently, Schoenberg and Stockhausen did not have many adherents in the halls of the Yerevan State Music Conservatory.

This is not to say that there isn’t some adventuresome music-making in evidence in this collection, even when folk music is the main inspiration. Artur Akshelyan refers to “stretched harmonies containing some melodic embellishments” to describe his style in his 2021 three-part Sillage. It is a compelling and accurate way to designate much of the music by the younger composers represented here. At an extreme, there is a work like Aregnaz Martirosyan’s Chameleon, which she calls a tribute to Komitas, whose “folk song arrangements are always on my desk.” She specifically utilizes phrases from the Komitas song Loosnakn Anoush, but she buries them in a blanket of stylized sounds from violin and alto sax, in a puckish, conversational manner that recalls Ligeti. The music of Vache Sharafyan, at least in the two works heard here, is never so playful, indeed quite the opposite: It is consistently anguished, although not monolithically so. The title work of the set, Serenade with a Dandelion, is a duet for two violins, a plaintive dialog seemingly drawn from folk material, with subtle microtonal flourishes. Sharafyan’s one-movement String Quartet is louder, faster, angrier; there is an energy here that bears the influence of Penderecki. The young Armenian-American composer Kristapor Najarian contributes another folk-infused work, an overtly theatrical six-movement tale of two violins, played with marvelous energy and focus by the acclaimed Kavafian sisters. Alan Hovhaness is probably the best-known name in this group. His short, pizzicato-laden String Trio from 1962 is quirky and delightful.

The music of Artur Avanesov is vividly emotional, and not a little bit theatrical in many passages. His brief but highly engaging String Quartet includes movements titled “Drammatico” and “Cognitive Study of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” In his notes, he acknowledges the influence of Bartók, particularly in his use of lyrical folk melodies spiked by dissonance. Avanesov’s music fills an entire CD and part of a second one. He deserves the space, in particular for his very lovely solo piano music, which he himself performs. His Feux follets (“Frenzied Flames”) is a work in progress, a kind of musical autobiography or diary, in the manner of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. As of the publication of this set, he had penned over 100 pieces in eleven volumes; he chose nine to include on this album. The musical language is deliberately retrograde or “old-fashioned” (a term that I suspect he would embrace), with odes to musical heroes including, appropriately, Grieg, as well as Brahms, Schubert, Berg, and French harpsichord music. His 2022 Tezeta is based on material heard in the songs of Ethiopian performers Seyfou Yohannes and Mahmoud Ahmed. Avanesov writes of the cultural and historical links between Armenia and Ethiopia, which might surprise many, as it certainly did this writer. His Tre Sonate (“Three Sonatas”) is another work of homage, in this case for the Baroque era, with echoes of Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. His writing in this music is delectably elegant and flowing, especially as expressed in this beguiling performance.

Avanesov was introduced to the executive producer of this set, Movses Pogossian, by Tigran Mansurian, a veteran of the era of Soviet musical culture and, in the words of Pogossian, “the living legend and soul of Armenian music.” Mansurian is represented here by three works: a single-movement work for string quartet plus a second cello, Tremors; an “ode of lamentation” for a seriously ill family member, Lachrymae, for tenor saxophone and violin; and a vocal cycle of six songs. Mansurian in turn is the inspiration for one of his many acolytes, Martin Ulikhanyan, who borrows music from Mansurian’s well-known film scores in a flowing homage scored for string quartet and clarinet. Another contemporary of Mansurian, Koharik Gazarossian, created yet another work based on folk tunes gathered by Komitas, her brief 1961 string quartet Ta mère n’est plus, which was premiered in Paris.

The disc devoted entirely to Armenian art songs begins, fittingly, with a group of Komitas songs, which sets the tone for the balance of the compositions. Romanos Melikian (1883–1935) and Kourken Alemshah (1907–1947) are very much in the Komitas camp, that is, in resetting folk melodies in the format of singer and piano accompaniment, with romantic and even sentimental subject matter for the words. Mansurian is also in this tradition, but his songs stand out for their elegant structure and deceptively simple melodic patterns. Soprano Shoushik Barsoumian renders the music with a clear, soaring voice.

Listening to this music, in repeated hearings, has opened my ears to a rich culture that I was previously largely unaware of (there are exactly three composers, Komitas, Hovhaness, and Mansurian, whose works I had heard before). As such, and aided immensely by consistently excellent performances and highly informative program notes, my musical sensibility has been greatly enhanced. This set is a wonderful achievement.

— Peter Burwasser, 2.15.2024

5

Fanfare Interview

This four-disc set of music by Armenian composers, Modulation Necklace, is a game-changer. Movses Pogossian is both an accomplished, prize-winning violinist and founding director of UCLA’s Armenian Music Program. Who better to birth this astonishing set, a release of remarkable breadth, replete with invention? The music is consistently presented at the very highest standard.

What was the inspiration for this set? How did the idea come about, and how difficult has it been to bring it to realization?

This set is, in fact, a natural continuation of the process started by the Modulation Necklace compact disc of Armenian music, which was released three years ago, also on the New Focus label. As a performer and organizer, I’ve been quite fortunate to be involved with performing and premiering a lot of Armenian music, both through founding and leading the UCLA Armenian Music Program, and also by directing the Dilijan Chamber Music Series in Los Angeles for 15 seasons. I am also very lucky that some of my best friends happened to be amazing composers! Regarding the difficulty: Of course, it’s been hundreds and hundreds of hours of creative, organizational, and administrative activity, not without stress—but well worth it.

What are you hoping to archive in the release of this set? A new appreciation of Armenian music for listeners?

Absolutely! There is so much to archive and to celebrate. I was kind of astonished with how this project mushroomed to four discs and 270 minutes of music, and it could have easily been a double of that. By including a wide range of composers, from the revered Komitas Vardapet to the pieces written as recently as a year ago, the aim was to point the listeners to the vast richness and beauty of the Armenian musical culture, old and new. We already have plans for the next instalment in our Modulation Necklace series; we just need to catch some breath first.

Regarding the dandelion-inspired piece, the derivation of the name (“Dent de lion,” lion’s tooth) perhaps reminds us that there is a nobler aspect to this humble plant that is normally construed as a weed. Certainly, Armenian composer Vache Sharafyan seems to realize this in his lovely and quite complex Serenade with a Dandelion for two violins. Heard in a lovely performance here, it’s highly atmospheric. I also like how the use of stopping gives the impression of more than two instruments, too. How would you introduce this piece? And as one of the two players (with Varty Manouelian), what challenges does Sharafyan’s score pose to the performers?

Vache’s colorful, imaginative music has the built-in effect of taking the listener on fantastical journeys, and is almost therapeutic in nature. Serenade with a Dandelion has a special place in my heart. It is a gift from Vache to my wife Varty and me, with which we opened the very first concert of the Dilijan Chamber Music Series, back in 2005. The composer eloquently describes the piece in his program note: “... softness and lightness, freedom of the imaginary flight, transparency of the dandelion seemed very close to the kernel of the musical idea in the Serenade. Meanwhile, the dandelion consists of a confident lion as well: strongly in love, even somehow drunk out of love, and so rich of imagination.…” I could not have said it better—and,

frankly, it’s been a labor of love, both in premiering the piece two decades ago, and in bringing it back for this recording.

There can’t be many pieces for solo saxophone and viola, but Tigran Mansurian’s Lachrymae suggests maybe there should be more! What a powerful piece this is, written in 1999 when a close member of Mansurian’s family was ill. This blew me away, with its two intertwining lines, independent and yet related (on a very immediate level, the timbres are not too far distanced from each other). Am I right in thinking that drooping phrases indicate the sense of loss? (Interestingly, I reviewed Sharafyan’s Petrified Dance in Fanfare 46:1, which is a dance of mourning, linking the two composers—Gems from Armenia on BIS, Fanfare 35:4.) In his review of Mansurian’s “Bagatelles,” James H. North speaks of leaning on the composer’s heritage (Armenian) but within a modernist perspective. Would you say that’s fair in relation to Mansurian’s music?

I think it is, overall, a good description, but I would add a good number of layers and angles to this modern classic of Armenian music. Tigran Mansurian’s impact on the generations of Armenian composers is matched, in my opinion, only by Komitas and Khachaturian. Always evolving, his more “modernist” pieces of the 1960s to the 1980s closely aligned themselves with the revolutionary and defiant spirit of Schnittke, Silvestrov, Pärt, and Denisov—all of them being his close friends. Gradually, Mansurian’s music has entered the realm of transparency and deep homage to the modal universe of the Armenian musical tradition. I think this set gives listeners a good representation of Mansurian’s inner world, as the three recorded works are really different from each other.

Sharafyan’s Second String Quartet is remarkable. Cast in what the composer calls “chain” form, in which each section births the next, it’s an incredibly varied experience expressively. Occasionally I hear Janáček in the repetitions of cells, but then it veers off in a totally individual way. Some of the writing is incredible—long, fast passages followed by almost playful modernist moments in which discontinuous phrases on each instrument create an impression of misaligned clockwork. Again, you’re performing here (first violin) with obviously esteemed colleagues. How did you go about interpreting this piece? What would you say makes it individual?

I’ve known Vache for more than 30 years, and, frankly, lost track of the amount of works that I was fortunate to be involved with, as either a commissioner, a first performer, or simply as a friend. His output is truly enormous. However, I agree with you that the Quartet No. 2 is indeed something else. I recall how we were reading it for the first time with my wonderful collaborators Andrew McIntosh (himself an amazing composer, by the way), Che-Yen Chen, and Coleman Itzkoff, literally marvelling at the twists and turns of this remarkable scenic drive-like experience, with happy smiles on our faces. While the piece has considerable technical difficulties, once they are conquered, it sort of plays itself—we are just letting ourselves be taken for a ride in a fairy tale.

The name Akshelyan (Sillage) is new to me—and it turns out to be new to Fanfare too. Could you introduce the composer, perhaps, and how this piece came to be included?

Akshelyan is one of the most prominent representatives of the post-Soviet generation of young Armenian composers, and I am delighted with the result of our first collaboration. I was approached by Alec Ekmekji, an aficionado of Armenian music and UCLA’s VEM Ensemble (which at that time consisted of mezzo-soprano Danielle Segen and a string quartet) about ideas for a commission. Alec happened to be good friends with the poet Zareh Melkonian’s daughter Lina, who was very kind to work with the composer on choosing the texts that appealed to him.

The result is Akshelyan’s Sillage, which, in my opinion, is a marvelous piece: haunting, complex, and full of fantasy and colors. To quote Akshelyan from his program notes, he was “rather on the philosophical side of it, as if the different time fragments of life and death coexist in our memory, and we are impacted both from past and future events. Therefore, musically speaking, I had to include short phrases or sometimes repeated words.… I considered quasi-soft and meditative passages along with abrupt and ad libitum interventions, in which the repetition of words will provide a dynamic link between voice and strings, and the ‘nature of the moment or instance’ will project the ‘emotional sillage.’”

There’s something of the viola in Berio’s Folk Songs here (I’m thinking of “Black is the Color of my True Love’s Hair”). Firstly, could you introduce the poet upon which this is based, Zareh Melkonian?

I did not know about the poet until this project. Here is a beautiful write up about him by Lina Melkonian, his daughter—I hope it’s helpful! https://linamelkonian.com/zareh-melkonian

The three movements are centered around a poem called IT. The music plays with traditional modes of writing (to represent the past) as well as more modernist techniques. The finale almost sounds like a folkish lullaby to me. The performers are remarkable—the control of all of them, but particularly the singer, is stunning. How did the choice of performers come about?

The piece was written specifically with the voice of Danielle Segen in mind (see above about that). The composer and Danielle were in communication about the vocal range, preferences, and so on—and it really paid off. Regarding the string quartet, I plead guilty to hand-picking musicians that I admire and love playing chamber music with. A few years back, Andrew, Che-Yen, Coleman, and I collaborated on a Kurtág “Hommage” program, which stands in my memory as one of the most satisfying immersive and spiritual experiences that I have ever had as a musician. The Avanesov miniatures were premiered at that concert, and naturally I wanted to bring back the same cast—and I am lucky and grateful that it was possible.

The scoring of Chameleon by Aregnaz Martirosyan takes us back to strings and sax—this time a solo violin with alto sax. The impression is generally light, until those sudden punctuating syncopations. Interestingly, it uses a Komitas folk melody as part of its material. That speaks of a sense of national pride as well as high imagination. How important is that sense of national identity to Armenian composers in general and Martirosyan in particular?

I am glad you picked up on that. It’s fair to say that a reverential relationship to Komitas is quite characteristic for the Armenian composers of the new generation as they steadily move away from the dogmas of the dated Soviet Realism and embrace the depths of Armenian music’s ancient identity.

It’s time to move on to Disc 2: Armenian Art Songs. Who is Vatsche Barsoumian, who is mentioned in the notes?

My dear friend and a musician of rare insight, Vatsche Barsoumian has built an oasis of Armenian culture in Glendale, CA by founding the Lark Musical Society 30 years ago, as well as its offspring, the Dilijan Chamber Music Series, which he asked me to lead in 2005, for what became 15 memorable seasons, packed with commissions, premieres, and highly committed chamber music-making. Vatsche is one of the world’s foremost scholars on Komitas and Armenian music in general, and has been instrumental in dreaming up the concept of an entire compact disc dedicated to Armenian art songs, which are performed beautifully by Shoushik Barsoumian and Steven Vanhauwaert.

The first eight songs are by the composer usually just known as Komitas, although his full name is Komitas Vardapet. Can you introduce him a little and discuss what makes his music so special? Can you perhaps also speak about the importance his work has had on other Armenian composers who followed him?

This is a question that would require an entire book to be answered properly. A truly watershed figure in the history of Armenian culture, Komitas Vardapet has been rightly called the “savior of Armenian music.” He was a priest and a victim of the Armenian genocide of 1915, during which he fell victim to the purge against Armenian intellectuals. As one of the eight survivors from the prison camp he was deported to, he suffered from deteriorating mental health, and was eventually transferred to a clinic in a suburb of Paris, where he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1935. As an ethnomusicologist, very much like Kodály and Bartók for Hungarian music, Komitas collected and documented thousands of Armenian folk songs. As a scholar, Komitas wrote in-depth treatises about the unique Armenian modes, as well as doing invaluable work deciphering the unique notational system called “khaz.” As a composer, while his input is limited (mostly for, choir, solo piano, and voice/piano), he left us with gems that are venerated in Armenia, and are finally receiving international attention, thanks to ECM recordings and performances and also recordings by some very prominent musicians such as Kirill Gerstein (who is soon releasing a highly anticipated Platoon recording that pairs Komitas and Debussy) and Grigory Sokolov. It is a known fact that after one of the triumphant performances of Komitas’s choir in Paris, Claude Debussy came backstage and knelt in a gesture of admiration, saying: “You are a genius, Holy Father.”

I’m intrigued by the sparse nature of the scoring—often a piano single line and voice. It’s as if he achieves maximal effect through minimal means. Is that a fair appraisal?

Just like you, I find that particularly impactful!

... but the melodies themselves are highly ornate—are the decorations part of the Armenian musical vernacular? And, I love the singer, to be honest—a lovely voice, clear and yet warm. Her diction seems excellent as far as I can tell (in the sense that syllables are clearly defined—I don’t speak Armenian, I’m afraid!).

I fondly remember 18-year-old Shoushik at the very beginning of her career, still a student at USC, mesmerizing the audience by singing Komitas with such purity and nobility that it took my breath away. A beautiful person and musician, she has so much to offer with her innately deep interpretations, which stay away from external effects and aim to concentrate solely on the meanings of the texts and the music. I love this kind of ego-free musicianship so much.

There seem to be extremes of emotion here. The fourth song is ultra-beautiful; “Homeless,” the sixth song, is unbearably sad. The last two Komitas songs are both centered on the crane (the bird, not the mechanical object!). Is this a meaningful symbol in Armenia?

Cranes have a special significance for Armenians, related to our tragic history full of trauma, ethnic cleansing, and migration. Many folk songs and poems are dedicated to cranes as symbols of homesickness.

Romanos Melikian (1883–1935) is a new name to me—would you care to introduce him to Fanfare’s readers? There are only two songs by Melikian here—but there’s a lot of beauty in the filigree delicacy of Glowing in the Garden and the incredible pain of Weep Not. Is there much more to discover? I hope so! I wonder why we don’t know more about Melikian—only one of his pieces, Emerald Songs, has been reviewed in Fanfare before.

Well, this is one of the reasons why this CD set is conceived: also to bring attention to some wonderful Armenian composers of the past who are not much known yet outside of Armenia. The widely educated musician, composer, and choir conductor Romanos Melikian, a Moscow Conservatory graduate, is the founder of the first National Conservatory in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, in 1921. (I am a proud alumnus of the Conservatory, and therefore one of the many beneficiaries of Melikian’s vision.) Due to poor health and a busy life as an organizer, Melikian’s compositional output is not large, but it is exquisite, and consists of mostly works for voice. Interestingly, the pianist in the recording to which you refer, Emerald Songs, is Artur Avanesov, who is featured prominently in our project, both as a composer and performer.

There are no previous pieces by Kourken Alemshah (1907–47) at all in the Fanfare Archive. And yet his I Loved seems like a cross between a Schubert song/melodrama and Eastern harmonies and melodic constructs. It is quite remarkable (and, I have to say, the singer is astonishing in her high register in “Wish”). What would you say makes Alemshah’s writing unique?

Yes, Alemshah was another important figure in Armenian music who is finally receiving some well-deserved exposure. Unlike Melikian, who received his education in Moscow and worked on the fringes of the Russian Empire (and later Soviet Union), in Yerevan and Tbilisi, Alemshah was a member of Turkey’s Armenian minority, and was later educated in Milan. He settled in Paris in 1930, and that’s where most of his creative activities occurred. In addition to composing, he also founded the “Cilicia” choir, which became a well-known choir in the Armenian community of France. In 1933, at the age of 26, Alemshah was invited to join the Association of Musical Authors, Composers, and Editors of France (SACEM). In 1937 his work Armenian Wedding, a combination of Alemshah’s music with popular songs, won the second prize at the international competition of People’s Music, with the participation of 20 nations. In the 1930s, he composed under the pseudonym of Jean Valdonne. In 1939, Alemshah was appointed to direct the Sipan Komitas choir, which he led until his death. He conducted Armen Tigranian’s opera Anoush and the performances of the Armenian Divine Liturgy in a number of French cathedrals. I’d say that Alemshah’s music is infused with his upbringing and deep love of Armenian music, but also highly influenced by the European training that he received, and the cosmopolitan environment of Paris, which at that time was a mecca for artists.

Finally for this disc, there are six songs from Tigran Mansurian’s Songs from Canti Paralleli. You refer to this in the notes as the best representation of the genre of Armenian art song. And I also see what the singer means in her booklet notes about the hypnotic nature of the piano part (which she says influences her deeply, and it certainly comes across as such in the music). Also, the song “Over the Blue Lake” in particular seems to exemplify this. Why is the set called Canti Paralleli?

The title of the cycle refers to the fact that the composer used two poems each from three different Armenian poets (Paghtasar Dpir, Yeghishe Charents, and Avetik Isahakian). Actually, the enhanced version of the cycle has two more poems added by Vahan Teryan, but the recorded version has a total of six songs. They are indeed pure gems, perfectly balancing poetry and music, with such a degree of piercing transparency that it takes your breath away from the very first note. As I mentioned earlier, Tigran Mansurian’s uncanny connection to the Armenian language and literature is unique, and his late compositional style suits those poignant texts like a glove. It is actually Vatsche Barsoumian’s opinion that Canti Paralleli is the best representation of the Armenian art song, and I fully agree with him. What makes it special is that Shoushik Barsoumian had several opportunities to work with the composer on these songs, in preparation

for the 2012 premiere performance in Yerevan, Armenia, so I think we have a definitive version of this masterpiece documented for posterity.

What about the poets that these composers set? It’s difficult in translation to catch the subtleties of their verse, of course. What are their specific characteristics as poets, and how do you feel the composers translated (or worked with) that in their music? Also, is there an Armenian school of poetry, and if so what are its characteristics?

The poems set to music by the composers in this collection are very diverse and represent different historical periods of Armenian poetry. Finding common themes among them is truly impossible because they cover a time span ranging between troubadour poetry and Futurism. In addition, due to the distinct difference between the Western and Eastern Armenian languages, two schools of Armenian poetry can be identified. While having different phonetics and orthography, Western and Eastern Armenian are two mutually intelligible branches of the same language. Due to political and historical circumstances, the two schools often differ not only linguistically but also stylistically. The musical settings of these poems rather reveal their intrinsic qualities (through the prism of the composers’ individual styles) than tend to find a common theme between them.

Moving to the third disc, Artur Avanesov has at least made it into the Fanfare Archive with his Feux follets, which I reviewed back in 43:5 (with yourself as soloist, on the New Focus disc Modulation Necklace). His Wondrous It Is... is based on a melody by the eighth-century poet Khosrovidukht and is poignantly scored for string trio. It’s absolutely lovely—what was the intent of the original melody? Is a “sharakan” a particular type of church melody?

Wondrous It Is… is Avanesov’s arrangement of the sharakan (church hymn) by the eighth-century Armenianauthor Khosrovidukht Goghtnatsi, one of the first known female music authors in the world. Khosrovidukht’s song is dedicated to the memory of her brother Vahan, who was abducted by Arabs, forcibly converted to Islam, and spent twenty years in a prison. Upon his release and return to Armenia, Vahan converted back to Christianity but soon met a violent death as a martyr.

It is incredible to think that this string trio piece was written in 2023, so many years after the original, and yet it seems to maintain the original’s sense of holiness and devotional respect.

I agree wholeheartedly! It draws you in instantly, and holds you in its spell until the very last note, a delightful pianissimo grace note by a lone violin that is an homage to Armenian folk tradition.

It’s a terrific performance, too—there’s so much control from the players. I do wonder how much rehearsal and recording time they had, as the standards are so high throughout the set!

This is really a labor of love. I am so incredibly proud of the young performers, members of the VEM Quartet (two graduate students and a recent alumnus). The piece was commissioned by the UCLA Armenian Music Program, to headline a concert tour of Armenia in the spring of 2023. In a short period of time, from early March through mid-May, Ela, Damon, and Niall have performed it on multiple occasions, from outreach events for school children in Armenian provinces to high-profile concerts in Yerevan and Los Angeles—always to an incredibly receptive reaction. They also got to work on it with the composer (who took part in our tour as a performer as well). By the time they recorded it in late May 2023, they really owned it.

It is nice that this is followed by Avanesov’s String Quartet No. 2; but the title of the first movement shocked me before I even heard a note—“Cognitive Study of the Generative Anxiety Disorder.”

Artur sometimes shocks me with his titles. But I have to say, it is an accurate and, actually, helpful insight into the piece for us, the performers!

The quartet took him four years to write (2019–23) and yet remains a work in progress, with more music to add. We have four movements so far (rather neatly, that does fit with the general conception of a string quartet!) Three of the four movements are linked to Feux follets, right? (That’s another piece that is in continuous evolution—some 70 pieces so far! Or more by now?)

As Artur Avanesov writes in his program note: “... this is another work in progress that will eventually comprise many small units. These could be deliberately selected and played in any order. So, the title String Quartet does not refer to any specific musical form; instead, it is just a description of the instrumental combination for which the composition is written. The present recording features all four pieces existing at this moment. Three of them are linked to the corresponding Feux follets pieces.”

What are the challenges for the performers of this music?

We worked a lot on these pieces. They are deceptively short but rather complex and tricky to put together. Performers are asked to combine a Berg- or Webern-like precision of coordination (lots of complicated twists and turns, counting can be tricky, etc.) along with a very Romantic and “in the moment” aesthetic of freedom and improvisation. So, you have to be very focused and aware, but also comfortable enough to play rubato. It is very rewarding, though!

So, on to the “Generative Anxiety Disorder.” My own impressions are that a motif, heard at the opening, returns again and again, as if in escalating Angst. The Angst seems more harmonically generated in the second movement, “Drammatico.” Here, folklore meets microtonality in the most astonishing compositional dance. And I love the song of the third movement. Hushed and as intense as the slow movement of a late Beethoven string quartet, this is remarkable (although shorter than I expected from the gravity of the materials!) A medieval French folk song forms the inspiration for this movement here, “Quand l’aubespine fleuret” (When the Hawthorn Flowers)—truly beautiful.

I’m going to skip over to the fourth disc at this point, as it contains pieces by Avanesov related to the above—a sequence of nine pieces from Feux Follets. They are fascinating—the way he embraces Schubert and internalizes Des Fischers Liebesglück is remarkable. Various other songs are referenced (there’s no missing Der Tod und das Mädchen!). It’s very clever but remarkably affecting at the same time, as Schubert morphs into a more Eastern version of himself and then into Avanesov himself. This internalization of other composers seems very personal to Avanesov, doesn’t it?

Definitely. Everything is personal for Artur, and for someone with his encyclopedic knowledge of music it seems only natural that he is “besieged” by references and reverences, so to speak. Actually, the great György Kurtág, whom I have the great honor of calling a mentor, functions in a similar manner as a creator. Of course they are very different, but I do see this common trend between them.

Just as clever is La lumineuse, a take on the character pieces of the French clavecinists of the era of Louis XIV and Louis XV! It has clear traits derived from them, yet still maintains something of Avanesov’s identity. I find these pieces very playful—and very, very clever. Avanesov’s Grieg piece again leaves us in no doubt as to the references; nor does the late Brahms (Intermezzo II). The booklet notes on the latter make an interesting point—the Intermezzo is no longer between two pieces but between existence and non-existence. Would you care to expand on that?

That is vintage Artur: He takes something very common and traditional, and looks at it from a unique angle. As he eloquently explains in his program note, he is looking for the “... moment of meditative suspense between existence and non-existence, a moment of absence from both life and death, or that of presence in both at the same time.”

I never expected to see Alban Berg as one of the composers, much less one of the Altenberg-Lieder as a dropping-off point, but here it is in “Hier ist Friede.” The melodic similarity is crystal clear, as are the harmonic references. Would you agree there is an expressive similarity between Berg and Avanesov?

This is very perceptive of you to notice; I agree fully.

I think I find “Für Hanni,” an in memoriam piece, the most touching—this became a choral piece, I believe? And the idea behind it is very effective—an ascending, “winding stair-like” ascent amongst the Minimalist gestures. I also imagine this takes quite some control from the pianist.

Artur is truly a great pianist; I sometimes call him the “Armenian Thomas Adès,” because both of them have mesmerizing pianistic abilities in addition to being great composers.

It’s fascinating, too, how the composer creates a prolongation of this in the next movement, “Nenia” (a dirge)—and, taking the title as another catalyst, references exist to Brahms and Kurtág in the music.

It’s also interesting how, in the two Intermezzos here, the composer refers less to Brahms (certainly in the final one) than to the end-of-century likes of Mahler—and Kreisler and Joseph Marx are also cited. I don’t know enough about Marx’s music (although I know the odd piece) to comment—how does this link to it? This final Intermezzo is very elusive indeed, almost fragmentary. Am I right in hearing some Armenian tropes in there, in the sudden flurries of notes and some of the melodic shapes?

I was so curious about your take that I relistened just now, and am actually hearing an homage to Rachmaninov (and Brahms and Mahler, of course). But we’d have to ask Artur!

I’m surprised (again!) by the inclusion of the music of Ethiopia in Tezeta—and surprised this piece seems to move towards modern jazz improvisation at times! I’m lucky enough to be able to read the notes for this release, but could you perhaps explain to the readers the relationships between Armenian and Ethiopian indigenous musics?

There is indeed an unbelievable connection between Armenian and Ethiopian musical cultures and histories, something that I learned myself relatively recently— thanks to the significant and important research by Paris-based composer Michel Petrossian (whose brilliant Piano Trio is on our first Modulation Necklace album). To quote Avanesov from his notes: “... while visiting Jerusalem in 1920s, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I came across Armenian orphans who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Having learned their story, he felt so compassionate that he took forty orphans to Addis Ababa, where he entrusted them to the care of the Armenian musician Kevork Nalbandian, author of the Imperial Anthem of Ethiopia. The Arba Lijoch (“forty orphans”) formed the imperial brass band of Ethiopia; many of them permanently settled in the country, thus influencing its musical life.”

How crazy is that? Basically, by a random act of historical coincidence, a single Armenian musician, Kevork Nalbandian, writes a National Anthem of Ethiopia, and is rightfully credited with establishing the professional musical culture of an entire country!

Also regarding Tezeta: I’m intrigued by the following: “Though written for piano solo, the piece was conceived as an imaginary conversation between several saxophones, keyboard, and drums.” That seems oddly specific; it is again performed by the composer, so one assumes

he had this in his mind during the performance. Occasionally, I confess, I thought of steel bands in this piece! And yet it is deeply serious, not flippant at all. To me, it feels like a tone poem for piano.

It is truly a unique soundscape. Imagine hearing it on Avanesov’s upright piano in his apartment in Yerevan, Armenia, when he first played it for me upon completion in the late evening. He is lucky to have very kind neighbors who adore him!

You also have the honor of having first recordings by the composer himself! Small wonder they are so convincing, musically!

That goes without saying.

Avanesov’s Tre Sonate (Three Sonatas) that closes the entire set seems immediately more approachable, even open-air. It pays homage to the form of the piano trio, and exudes a real affection. There’s a rather nice formal touch here: Each sonata can be played separately, but when played together they form a very satisfying three movements (fast-slow-fast). The first is great fun, a tribute to Scarlatti. (I love the rapid violin descent rounded off by a low staccato piano note at an octave displacement—put together, a typical Scarlatti left-hand gesture.)

And from Scarlatti one moves to Bach (the St. John Passion, and even more specifically “Zerfließe, mein Herze,” heard right near the end of the piece). There’s no missing the link between the two if you play them one after the other—and the vocal original certainly seems to encourage a sense of cantabile from the players, especially cellist Edvard Pogossian (who carries the melody for the majority of the time, only briefly ceding it to the violin of Varty Manouelian). It’s truly lovely, and appears to me as a real tribute to old JSB in the most tasteful manner possible. Does Bach hold a particular place in the hearts of Armenian musicians?

Well, I think Bach holds a particular place in the heart of every musician, and Armenian musicians are not an exception.

The final movement—the notes refer to a two-reprise form, by which I take it you mean both sections are repeated. There’s a lot of clever aspects to this movement mathematically—would you care to explain them to our readers? And how it does works musically! (To me it’s like a game, and we hear that playfulness in the music itself, but maybe that’s just me! There is some drama there, but I wonder whether it is tongue-in-cheek melodrama.)

Yes, this movement is a rather witty play on various numbers (four and three), and also cleverly goes through an entire chain of chromatically descending modulations from C Major back to C Major, thus covering all 12 (four times three) tonal centers. This is done while keeping a strict structure of 27 (three squared) measures per cadence, throughout an entire movement!

We have a first recording of Mansurian here in the piece Tremors, right? This is a string quintet, as opposed to a quartet. It occupies a special part in Mansurian’s output for its transitional nature—a departure from his fascination with the European avant-garde and a move towards nationalism, perhaps? It also seems particularly gritty at some points, against which the elegiac passages seem even more peaceful. It’s a terrific piece, and I almost feel that calling it “transitional” does it a disservice, as it works perfectly well in its own right. What do you think? What makes this piece so special to you? And how was the process of discovering the score for you and your colleagues as you worked on it? Certainly the performance implies deep work as you reveal the piece’s structure so well, and the climaxes therefore carry real weight.

I believe Tremors is the last major chamber work by Mansurian that has not been recorded yet, and sort of completes the circle of documenting his impressive body of work for posterity. Stylistically, it closely aligns with composer’s String Quartet No. 3—another dark, edgy, at times thorny-sounding masterpiece. I particularly love how the piece ends, with a ray of

hope (the violin in a very high register), and then an unanswered question by a solo viola (the composer’s favorite instrument). Actually, I am not performing in this piece; instead it’s my young student colleagues from another VEM incarnation, joined by my distinguished former UCLA colleague and friend, cellist Antonio Lysy, who sadly just passed away. I had the pleasure of being in the booth and producing this wonderful performance.

I’m absolutely intrigued concerning the title and basis of Martin Ulikhanyan’s Fantasy on Tigran Mansurian’s Film Music for clarinet and string quartet. Film music tends to be considered as something less than concert music in the West, and yet this works beautifully. The composer says he’s “personally very close to the composer.” What does he mean by that?

To start with, Armenia is a relatively small country, and when it comes to the cultural circles, everyone pretty much knows everyone! As for Tigran Mansurian, literally every Armenian knows his name, and can sing the beautiful bittersweet melody from the film A Piece of Sky, to which Mansurian wrote the music. Martin Ulikhanyan is one of Armenia’s most recognized composers in the genre of film music, and so my idea was to commission a piece from him that would pay an homage to Mansurian’s most beloved tunes from various films, while remaining an original composition. I think Martin has done it splendidly.

The piece is lovingly crafted, and just as lovingly played! The pizzicato section is particularly fetching. I think there are some passages I could identify as “filmic,” but that is by no means the rule, and Ulikhanyan seems to use that as part of a strategy of contrasts.

It’s also great to see some Hovhaness here, surely the most famous of the composers in this set. He qualifies as an “American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent”! What I find remarkable is that he has a completely individual musical signature.

I confess that when I was younger and cockier, I tended to look down on Hovhaness as a second-rate composer. Thankfully, I have matured somewhat, and now admire not only his remarkable output (over 400 works!), but also his holistic worldview as well as his reverence for nature. I think that in his chamber music especially, Hovhaness is like a chameleon, constantly reinventing himself. He is also never in a hurry, a quality I wish I had! I find it interesting and telling that he was friends with the great American composer Lou Harrison. Having had the pleasure of performing several times at Lou Harrison’s magical house in Joshua Tree (which has the best acoustic in the world, by the way, designed by Lou himself), it was very touching to see the correspondence between the two great men. When we worked on the String Trio with the VEM, we tried to make sure that the idiosyncrasies and non-conventional sections of the score are brought out and celebrated rather than undermined—and I am really happy with the final result.

The Gazarossian Lament is very powerful; and while I admire the recording of her Etudes on Piano Classics (46:6), I find this far more profound. But few will know anything about Koharik Gazarossian (1907–67). Again, would you care to introduce this composer?

I am so glad you enjoyed discovering this piece as a listener! Hailing from the genocide-surviving Armenian minority of Istanbul, Koharik Gazarossian was an active member of a circle of Armenian feminist intellectuals, writers, and artists, and one of the first women composers of the Republic of Turkey. Graduating the Paris Conservatory, she toured Europe, the USA, Lebanon, and Egypt, performing as a concert pianist in major concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Salle Gaveux, and Wigmore Hall. Written in Paris in 1961, Aghchi Mert Merel A / Ta Mère N’est Plus for string quartet takes its theme from a melody transcribed by Komitas in 1913 during a song collection excursion. Two field notebooks from this trip were saved by writer and scholar Toros Azadian and handed to Koharik Gazarossian in 1943. The lament Aghchi Mert

Merel A was the very first song in this collection that Gazarossian worked on. Thanks to Melissa Bilal, my dear friend who is an internationally recognized Gazarossian scholar, the inaugural Promise Chair in Armenian Music, Arts, and Culture at UCLA and also the director of the UCLA Armenian Music Program (a project that I was asked to start ten years ago at UCLA), I became aware of this work, and so we had the honor of premiering it in Los Angeles in the Spring of 2023, and later recording it for this project.

The renowned violinists Ani and Ida Kavafian, who play Kristapor Najarian’s A Tale for Two Violins, are those that gave its world premiere in Los Angeles in 2014. They certainly seem to dig right into this performance! There are some remarkable passages where both of them are double-stopping, enriching the sound; and indeed there is the contrastive power of the single folkish line. What’s fascinating is Najarian’s response to that line; or indeed the power of a single line against a drone (in the penultimate movement). The final movement is full of drama—this is indeed a tale of capture and escape. I like the idea that the titles suggest a story’s framework and leave the deals to the listener; I also like the way the music is expertly crafted. But this person is completely new to me! The programmatic nature of the music is more overt than any of the others on the set, would you agree?

This is another one of those happy stories of human and musical connections, dear to my heart. Kris (Kristapor) Najarian was an undergraduate violin student of mine at UCLA, a wide-eyed kid who loved not only Western classical music but also rock (he is really good in electric guitar) and folk (his father is an accomplished oud player, and his grandfather was a sought-after luthier of the oud, which is one of the traditional Armenian string instruments, plucked like a guitar). Midway through his violin studies, Kris added a composition major and graduated with both. Next thing I knew, he was in the Paris Conservatory studying with Eric Tanguy, and is now a composer in his own right. A Tale is Kris’ first widely successful work; it was a commission from the Dilijan Chamber Series and Lark Musical Society. The spectacular violinists Ani and Ida Kavafian (dear friends of mine) gave it a truly memorable premiere in Los Angeles a few years ago, and the rest is a history of repeat performances all over, and a universal acclaim by professionals and amateurs alike.

We dealt with disc four above when talking about Avanesov; so I wonder what’s next for your Armenian projects?

As I mentioned above, there is so much worthy Armenian music to document for posterity. My hope is that we’ll be able to issue sequels to the Modulation Necklace series about once every two years. I do have ideas, including potential commissions, but don’t want to jinx anything. Hopefully, when the time comes, we’ll be talking about the next project!

Also, a word about the recordings perhaps as, like the set’s documentation, they are superb. Were any of the composers present? Najarian and Avanesov are still with us, of course!

Did I mention earlier that I feel very lucky? The stars truly aligned, and the support that I had—creative, emotional, logistical—has been just superb. I do have to give a shoutout first and foremost to Sergey Parfenov, our lead recording engineer, editor, and a guru of sound and post-production. Sergey has been responsible for 270 minutes of recorded music on this set—it’s four and a half hours of music. Just imagine the amount of time and effort that it took to oversee that amount of material! I am also very grateful to my staff colleagues at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where we are very lucky to have a state-of-the-art recording studio, one of the most coveted spaces in Los Angeles. Working with Dan Lippel, the creator and driving force of New Focus Recordings, has always been such a pleasure—this is our fifth project together. Dan is a great musician himself, and has human and musical standards that I admire. I am also very

grateful to designers Marc Wolf and Irene Baghdasaryan for their beautiful creative solutions; I love both the printed and digital booklets.

Needless to say, the honor of choosing the performers and making music with them is what I cherish most, because once all the dust settles, those memories will stay with me.

Thanks so much for going through this rather long sequence of questions!

My pleasure!

— Colin Clarke, 2.15.2024

5

Fanfare

When my wife and I moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles in 2021, we made several
discoveries about our new home city. We knew, of course, that the Pacific Ocean would be a
relatively short drive from our house in Northeast LA. What we hadn’t anticipated was that a
mere ten-minute ride separated us from breathtaking mountain hikes. Another rewarding
discovery was the prominence of LA’s Armenian population. With Glendale (again just a few
minutes from our house) serving as the focal point, the metropolitan Los Angeles Armenian
population is exceeded only by Armenia itself. Needless to say, the presence and influence of
Armenian tradition and culture, including music, are profound in Los Angeles. Violinist Movses
Pogossian, a graduate of the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory, moved to LA in 2004. In his
liner notes for a new 4-disc set on the New Focus label, Serenade with a Dandelion: Armenian
Chamber Music, Old and New, Pogossian recounts collaborative efforts that exposed Angelenos
to Armenia’s rich musical tradition. In 2005, Pogossian co-founded the Dilijan Chamber Music
Series, “dedicated to showcasing traditional pieces of Western classical chamber music, as well
as pearls from the treasury of Armenian chamber works.” For the first decade of its existence,
Movses Pogossian also headed the UCLA Armenian Music Program, part of the UCLA Herb
Alpert School of Music. Both the Dilijan Chamber Music Series and UCLA Armenian Music
Program have presented numerous concerts showcasing the works of Armenian composers, past
and present. Many of those compositions, as well as the artists who perform(ed) them, are
featured on Serenade with a Dandelion, a set comprising music by Armenian composers of the
20 th and 21 st centuries.


Each of the four discs on the New Focus set concentrates upon a particular aspect of
Armenian chamber music. The first showcases chamber music for various combinations of
instruments. These include Vache Sharafyan’s Serenade with a Dandelion (2005) (two violins)
and String Quartet No. 2 (2022), Tigran Mansurian’s Lachrymae (1999) (tenor saxophone and
violin), Artur Akshelyan’s Sillage (2021) (mezzo-soprano and string quartet), and Argenaz
Martirosyan’s Chameleon (2022) (alto saxophone and violin). All of the works on disc 1 adopt a
decidedly modernist type of expression, with a focus on the repetition and development of
motifs, couched in a broad spectrum of instrumental colors. Disc 2, “Armenian Art Songs”,
opens with several arrangements for voice and piano of Armenian folk songs, created by
Komitas Vardapet. Two songs each by Romanos Melikian and Kourken Alemshah follow. The

disc concludes with excerpts from Mansurian’s Canti Paralleli (2012). Komitas’s beautiful
arrangements of the folk material set the stage for a disc that celebrates melody’s beauty and
expressive potential (full English translations of the songs are included in the booklet). All of the
songs are performed to perfection by soprano Shoushik Barsoumian and pianist Steven
Vanhauwaert. Disc 3 returns to instrumental chamber music, scored, with one exception, for
various combinations of strings. That exception is Martin Ulikhanyan’s Fantasy on Tigran
Mansurian’s Film Music
(2020), pairing a clarinet with string quartet. The remaining works are
Artur Avanesov’s Wondrous It Is… (2023) (violin, viola, cello) and String Quartet (2019-23),
Mansurian’s Tremors (1990) (two violins, viola, two cellos), Hovhaness’s String Trio, op. 201
(1962) (violin, viola, cello), Koharik Gazarossian’s Ta Mère N’est Plus (1961) (string quartet),
and Kristapor Najarian’s A Tale for Two Violins (2014). The second disc of instrumental chamber
music presents music generally cast in an approachable idiom, one that more clearly adopts folk
and other traditional Armenian elements.


The final disc showcases composer and pianist Artur Avanesov performing his own
works. First are 9 excerpts from Avanesov’s “work in progress,” Feux follets, a collection of
“100 keyboard pieces arranged into eleven volumes. The Feux follets pieces feature various
musical styles and contain multiple references to the pre-existing music of different time periods,
cultures, and individual artists.” The included Feux follets selections evoke music spanning the
Baroque to Berg, Bartók and György Kurtág. In these brief piano pieces, Avanesov’s weaving of
historical elements into what he describes as “essentially a postmodern work” is brilliant,
seamless, and entirely captivating. This is also music that maintains a gratifyingly accessible
idiom, without ever sacrificing its sense of creativity and exploration. The same is true of another
solo piano work, Tezeta, inspired by Ethiopian popular music. The concluding Tre-Sonate (2022)
(violin, cello, and piano) comprises three brief works that can either be played as a unit, or
separately. The first (Allegro assai) “zooms in on the eccentricities of Domenico Scarlatti’s
keyboard sonatas.” The slow-tempo second piece (Lento), evoking Bach, spotlights the cello.
The concluding Presto trio is a nod to the Classical-era tradition. Its sonata form is the
foundation for episodes of chromatic descending modulations from C Major to C Major (major
keys in the exposition and recapitulation, minor keys in the development). As with Haydn and
Mozart, Avanesov employs these academic structures and techniques to fashion music that is
unfailingly spirited and entertaining.


Serenade with a Dandelion is a treasure trove of fine and compelling music, all superbly
performed. No doubt violinists Ani and Ida Kavafian (Najarian’s A Tale for Two Violins) will be
familiar to Fanfare readers. But all of the artists give exceptional, committed performances. It is
clear from the committed renditions of the various works, as well as Movses Pogossian’s
heartfelt booklet narrative, that this project is a labor of love for all concerned. The recordings,
made at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s Ostin Music Center, and Lincoln Center’s
Rose Studio, are superb. In addition to Pogossian’s essay and the translations of sung texts, the
booklet includes detailed program notes for all the repertoire. A first-rate, enriching musical
journey, one I recommend to all with the utmost enthusiasm.

— Ken Meltzer, 2.16.2024

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