American Record Guide

Tuach and Harboyan stunned the audience with Arutiunian’s Impromptu in a recital a few years ago in Newfoundland, where Tuach is from. They decided to seek out other Armenian pieces and have now graced us with this. You probably know what to expect: well-crafted, folk-influenced music with colorful and sometimes mournful melodies. The Arutiunian is a vigorous yet contrasting piece, only a few minutes long. Babadjanian’s ‘Vocalise’ has a spun-out melody line and a tempo that’s similar to Rachmaninoff’s, but the accompani­ment sounds more Baroque than anything. It doesn’t have the depth of the Rachmaninoff, but it’s still lovely.

Haro Stepanian’s sonata from 1943 is the centerpiece. It’s lyrical and tonal, and the solid classical writing has moments of folk inflections. It does pay homage to the Shostakovich Cello Sonata, and if it doesn’t achieve the same greatness, it has a charm all its own. The first movement is sober and didactic, lasting about as long as the other two combined. II is a chromatic, shifting Andante Cantabile that reminds me of one of Chopin’s funereal pieces in mood, except the Caucasian lines that act as highlights. The Allegretto Giocoso is a dance movement that seems too weighted-down. Two handfuls of short pieces by Komitas supply the most variety and attractiveness of the entire program – they form a tasteful and glorious suite.

The duo plays beautifully; the only thing I would ask for is an occasional whispering tone from Tuach – it would be quite effective. That aside, they’ve given us a charming, balanced, well-engineered program, and I’m grateful. Notes in English, Armenian, and French.

—Stephen Estep