Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
December 8, 2009
Entertainment Wire

by Sahan Arzruni


A fascinating concert took place on Sunday at Le Poisson Rouge, the
new fashionable music venue in New York's West Village. The former
Village Gate, now converted to a 200-seat space, has become an
attractive spot for informal presentations.

Venerable composer Tigran Mansurian is celebrating his 70th birthday,
touring the East Coast of the United States with Trio Hayren.
Fortunately for Mansurian, he has been discovered by the magnificent
violist Kim Kashkashian, who is promoting Mansurian's music through
her significant connections.

For the December 7 concert, the sensitive percussionist Robyn
Schulkowsky rounded out the trio led by Mansurian and Kashkashian.

Leading the brief program was a troika of Dagh - Mansurian's musical
take on three mystical poems by the tenth century theologian Grigor
Narekatsi. Scored for viola and percussion, the compositions
reformulate Armenian liturgical chants with great beauty and formal

Four Hayren, written originally for voice and piano, followed. For
these, Mansurian again plumbed the depths of Armenian poetry, this
time drawing up the hayren: a poetic form similar to quatrains,
original to Armenia and exemplified by the sixteenth-century master
Nahapet Kuchak. The work is wonderfully effective in its new viola
transcription, yet faithful to the medieval Armenian melodic style. A
sparse piano part shows Mansurian following in the footsteps of the
great Komitas.

Komitas's own works were abundantly present in a series of songs
re-interpreted by Mansurian for various combinations of the trio. His
rendition of Oror (Lullaby), performed as a piano solo, was simply
stupendous. Of course, these songs are very close to the Armenian
musical soul and always pull the heartstrings.

That said, some of the Komitas arrangements were puzzling. Especially
bothersome was the way Mr. Mansurian vocalized the songs in an abysmal
voice, while playing the piano. Perhaps he intended a ghostly effect,
but it only succeeded in sounding disembodied. There is but a short
step from a surreal sound to a patently artificial one-and the latter
does not enhance Komitas's celestial music. Mr. Mansurian needs to
re-evaluate his ways.

As good as it was to see so many Armenians at Le Poisson Rouge, it was
even better to have Armenian artists of the highest caliber showcasing
their talent. What a wonderful way to anchor the Armenian presence in
the cultural seascape of the Greenwich Village.

Master pianist Sahan Arzruni enjoys an international career, and is
also known as a composer, ethnomusicologist, producer, teacher,
lecturer, writer, recording artist and broadcasting personality.
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