Armenian News Network / Groong December 8, 2009 Entertainment Wire by Sahan Arzruni NEW YORK, NEW YORK 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 poise. 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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