Fanfare

This is an attractive and somewhat exotic disc. The music has the “eastern” sound we would expect, much of it folk inspired. The majority of the pieces here are transcriptions of vocal music based on folk songs by Komitas (1869-1935), the father of Armenian classical music. (This disc spells his name Gomidas, and I have also seen Komidas. Previous listings in the Fanfare archives, including a previous review of his music by me, are under Komitas. His original name was Soghomon Soghomonian; he was given the name Komitas upon his ordination to the priesthood of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and later received the title of “Vardapet” (or “Vartabed”), meaning “divine scholar,” upon being made an archimandrite.) His life story is a sad one, as he was utterly dispirited, even devastated, by the Ottomon Empire’s genocide of Armenians, and even though he was released from prison due to pressure from the U. S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau, he was never to recover his faculties, and in 1919 was committed to a sanatorium in Villejuif, a suburb of Paris, where he died.

Everything on this disc except for Haro Stepanian’s Cello Sonata and Autinunian’s Impromptu is an arrangement. Stepanian lived from 1897 to 1966, studied music in Moscow and Leningrad, and although Armenian folk music is at the core of this Sonata, he manages the arc of the large form well. He seems influenced also by Shostakovich, but not in an unhealthy way.

All of the miniatures are attractive. At first I feared that the disc was going to be too much of the same kind of sounds, but in fact there is variety here. It may not be challenging music, but it is appealing and at the same time unusual enough to hold our interest.

The performances seem very committed and sensitive, but the recorded sound of the piano seems rather thin and even clattery. There are helpful notes in English, French, and Armenian. An interesting disc for those with a taste for the exotic.

—Henry Fogel