Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
April 10, 2007
Entertainment Wire

by Sahan Arzruni


Composer Tigran Mansurian is anointed with the chrism of Armenian music.

During the past two weeks, New York audiences had the opportunity to
hear two local premieres by this distinguished composer: Con Anima for
string sextet at Merkin Concert Hall on March 27, and Agnus Dei for
clarinet, violin, cello and piano at Weill Auditorium at Carnegie Hall
on April 6, 2007.

Con Anima, composed for viola and string quintet and commissioned by the
Concertante ensemble, is in the form of a modified concerto grosso. This
remarkable score, structured in five interconnected segments, features
the viola as the chief spokesman, delivered here by Ara Gregorian with
immense dignity and humanity. 

Con Anima is a highly reflective, almost brooding work. It contains some
of the most remote, harrowing, and strangely beautiful music. Unadorned
lines hover and cross over the space. Sounds gather strength, then
dissipate into the void. There is an ambient darkness and pain present,
but they somehow become softer, tempered by an air of resignation and a
profound sense of nobility.

As the composer articulates in his program notes, `Con Anima carries the
tone of confession: in this case, `telling the truth' is equivalent to
speaking from the depths of the soul.'

Agnus Dei, is similarly a meditative work, stark yet haunting. Inspired
by the text of the Mass of the Roman Rite, each of the three movements
is designated by a phrase used in the liturgical text: Angus Dei (`Lamb
of God'), Qui tollis peccata mundi (`Who takes away the sins of the
world'), Miserere nobis (`Have mercy on us'). 

This is music of inner harmony -- musical and mystical. There seems to
be an eternity of space and time for Mansurian's music to vibrate, with
its whiffs of incense and flutterings of C)lan vital. I love the great
strength of vision and energy, and the ear -- his ability for hearing
sounds in music. Mansurian's Agnus Dei sounds teetery, vulnerable and
brittle; yet there is sufficient luminescence in the score to set a
diaphanous feel, illuminating and enlivening the mood.

The Baird Trio (violinist Movses Pogossian, cellist Jonathan Golove and
pianist Stephen Manes) who played the Mansurian's Agnus Dei with guest
artist clarinetist Jean Kupperud, presented an intelligent, unfaltering
and finely polished performance.

Tigran Mansurian's music is a contemporary mutation of Komitas'
language. It speaks the same words; it articulates the same phrases; it
communicates the same sentences -- only in greater scope, larger breath
and wider sweep.

Sahan Arzruni is a concert pianist and an ethnomusicologist. He has
toured China and Vietnam, performing and giving master classes, and
has delivered a series of lectures on Arshak II at the request of the
San Francisco Opera Guild.
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