ADDENDUM: Unfortunately the pianist Nareh Arghamanyan will not be able to perform. BMOP informs me that they are substituting a piece by the wonder.ful Israeli composer Betty Olivero called Neharot Neharot (2006-7) for two string orchestras, accordion, percussion, tape and viola. It will feature none other than violist extraordinaire Kim Kashkashian.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project begins it 20th season on Sunday October 18th with a concert in honor of the 1915 Armenian genocide with a celebration of that country’s artistic heritage. Titled Resilient Voices 1915-2015, the concert will feature works by Komitas (1869-1935), Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) and Tigran Mansurian (1939- ).
Komitas, born Soghomon Soghomonian, is generally regarded as the foundational composer for Armenian classical music in the 20th and 21st centuries. Like Bartok and Kodaly, he collected and transcribed folk music from his country. He is considered an early founder of the practice of ethnomusicology collecting Armenian and Kurdish folk music. He was ordained a priest in the Armenian rite church and took the name Komitas. The impact of the genocide affected him deeply and he spent the last 20 years of his life in a psychiatric facility where he died in 1935.
American composer Alan Hovhaness also embraced a musicological approach to his composition by including Armenian folk songs and that of other musical cultures he had explored including Korean and South Asian. He also acknowledges a debt to Komitas (Hovhaness released a recording on his own Poseidon label of him performing Komitas’ complete piano music).
Hovhaness remains less well-represented than he deserves in the concert hall so this performance of Khrimian Hairig (1944, rev 1948) is a welcome one. The piece is in three continuous movements titled, “Chalice of Holiness”, “Wings of Compassion” and “Triumph of Faith”. It is scored for string orchestra with solo trumpet. The solo here will be played by prominent new music trumpeter Terry Everson (whose talents are to be required in the next piece on the program). Hairig was a prominent Armenian cleric and mystic of the 19th century.
This work is early in Hovhaness’ prolific output and is characteristic of his Armenian period utilizing Armenian folk melodies and writing on Armenian themes. He would later gain wider fame when Leopold Stokowski premiered his 2nd Symphony “Mysterious Mountain” in 1955 on NBC television. Hovhaness died in 2001 leaving over 400 compositions of which 67 are symphonies.
The Armenian connection to the next piece is apparently the BMOP début of the young Armenian pianist, Nareh Arghamanyan (1989- ) in the First Piano Concerto Op. 35 (1933) of Dmitri Shostakovich. This unusual piece is scored for piano, string orchestra and trumpet (I told you Everson would be back). It is one of those neo-baroque experiments and quotes from well-known classical pieces. It is quite challenge for a pianist and the début of this rising artist will doubtless be one of the highlights of the concert.
The title of the concert is Resilient Voices 1915-2015 and is given in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) but more so in celebration of the voices and the talents that have endured. Controversy remains evidenced by the fact that Azerbaijan and Turkey continue to deny the genocide but the estimated death toll was 1.5 million and this is the event for which the term “genocide” was first used.
It is the genius of Gil Rose, conductor and artistic director whose creative vision in a couple of releases I recently reviewed ( Anthony Davis and Irving Fine) that first alerted me to the work of this fine ensemble (a little late, I know). But I discovered a great orchestra with some of the most innovative programming with attention to new and recent music. I was graciously offered a seat at this concert but it will have to be one of my regrets. This sounds like a fantastic program.
How very appropriate then to have the BMOP premiere of the Requiem (2009) by Tigran Mansurian (1930- ) by far Armenia’s best known living composer. The Requiem was written in memory of the holocaust and is scored for large orchestra, chorus and soprano and baritone soloists (not announced when last I checked yesterday). Gil Rose conducts the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum with the Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir. This is indeed a species of political music and BMOP is to be applauded for this as a contribution to the recognition of human rights. through music.
Mansurian previously appeared at the Other Minds 20th Anniversary concert (also dedicated to the holocaust) in March of 2015 in San Francisco. At that concert I captured a moment from the pre-concert discussion in which Mansurian agreed to sing a traditional Armenian song accompanying himself at the piano, a very personal moment from a composer whose art is deeply felt.
Please, BMOP, record this. Thanks in advance!!!