Agnus Dei (2006);Sonata da Chiesa (2015); Con Anima (2006-7); String Trio (2008);String Quartet No. 3 (1993); Die Tänzerin (2014)
Movses Pogossian, Varty Manoiuelian: violins;Kim Kashkashian, Teng Li: violas;Karen Ouzounian, Michael Kaufman: violoncellos;Tatevik Mokatsian; piano;Steven Vanhauwaert: piano;Boris Allakhverdyan: clarinet
ECM New Series 2687 CD0289 4819522 0 Release: November 6, 2020
Conceived jointly by violinist Movses Pogossian and violist Kim Kashkashian on the occasion of Tigran Mansurian's 80th birthday, the Con anima project brings together a dedicated cast of players to perform the chamber music of Armenia's great contemporary composer. The emphasis is on newer pieces - only the Third String Quartet dates from the 20th century - but there is a timeless quality to Mansurian's work, all of which resounds with the spirit of his homeland. "Mansurian's works are full of signifiers that come from Armenian ornaments, paintings or stones," writes Elena Dubinets in the CD notes. "His music itself feels as if it was carved out of stone." It can seem both ancient and modern at once, as it carefully explores and reveals relationships between contemporary Western composition and Armenia's sacred and secular music traditions. These characteristics are immediately evident in Agnus Dei, dedicated to the memory of Russian violinist Oleg Kagan. Here, violin, clarinet and cello sing against a sparse piano backdrop, in a piece whose form conveys the melos of Armenian spiritual music.
Mansurian, however, is a multifaceted composer, as Mark Swed has observed in the Los Angeles Times: "For all of his spiritual intensity, Tigran Mansurian achieved his mature voice the hard way, and he has always been of many sides. That late voice, the one Mansurian is known for, strives for a purity of sound and expression based on elements of traditional Armenian melody and the country's traditional and liturgical music, its language and poetry, to say nothing of its landscape. But under it all is a highly cosmopolitan composer." His compositions, effectively letters from Yerevan, also address the complexity of his country's history.
Sonata da Chiesais dedicated to priest-composer-folklorist Komitas Vardapet, an enduring inspiration for Tigran Mansurian. Komitas (1869-1935), a crucially important voice in the history of his country's music, was silenced and broken by the Armenian genocide. His artistic achievement and his tragedy resonated powerfully with Mansurian, as Kim Kashkashian and Tatevik Mokatsian make evident in the moving performance here.
The String Quartet no 3 was written in 1993, a message from a blockaded Yerevan in the wake of the Armenian struggle for independence, in which Armenian melody is dissonantly deconstructed. The piece concludes, as Elena Dubinets observes, "with a tense and mournful adagio seemingly drawn from a haunted world of constant suffering." Through good times and the most difficult times, Tigran Mansurian has been faithful to Armenia.
Title piece Con anima draws inspiration from Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 13. In Mansurian's string sextet the first viola attains a dominant role, "repeatedly reciting a confessional melody inflected with Eastern motifs and rhythmic figures."
Movses Pogossian and Kim Kashkashian, dedicatees of the String Trio of 2008 play the work here joined by cellist Karen Ouzounian. Its three movements are of strikingly different character. In the first, a melody is shared among the three instruments. In the second, a folk-like theme arises. For its concentrated musical thought, the slowly-moving third movement has drawn critical comparison to late Beethoven,
The album ends with Die Tänzerin, based upon an Armenian folk dance. "My dancers are mountain dwellers," says Tigran Mansurian. "When they dance they turn their backs on the mountain tops, having vast spaces in front of their eyes. Their dance embodies the joy of treading and circling these spaces…"
The Con anima project was recorded at the UCLA School of Music, Los Angeles, between January and April 2019.
Tigran Mansurian, the son of Armenian parents, was born on 27 January 1939 in Beirut (Lebanon), where he attended the French Catholic School. In 1947 he and his family returned to their homeland. After having attended a special music school, Mansurian studied composition at the Yerevan Conservatory, where he subsequently taught music analysis with special emphasis on contemporary composition.
Mansurian's compositional oeuvre includes orchestral works, concertos for string instruments and orchestra, string quartets, choral music, chamber music, and works for solo instruments. He cites Komitas and Claude Debussy among the composers who have most profoundly influenced his work.
Documentation of his music on ECM New Series began with Hayren (recorded in 2000) where Mansurian's music was juxtaposed with Komitas's; it featured Kim Kashkashian, Robyn Schulkowsky and Mansurian himself as interpreters. It was soon followed by the far-reaching composer portrtait Monodia (recorded 2001 and 2002), with Kashkashian, Jan Garbarek, the Hilliard Ensemble and the Münchener Kammerorchester. Ars Poetica (recorded 2003) featured Mansurian's choral music sung by the Armenian Chamber Choir. The Rosamunde Quartet recorded Mansurian's String Quartets in 2004. Quasi Parlando (2012) featured the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Anja Lechner as soloists. Mansurian's Requiem, dedicated to the memory of victims of the Armenian Genocide was recorded by the RIAS Kammerchor and the Münchener Kammerorchester in 2016.
CD booklet of Con animaincludes liner notes by Elena Dubinets and a performer's note by Movses Pogossian