“Now that is a great piece!” This was Beethoven’s comment when a visitor noticed he had copied the entire finale of Mozart’s A Major Quartet in his sketchbook. Join the charismatic Chilingirian Quartet for an enlightening study of Mozart K464 and Beethoven Op 18 No 5 Quartets, illustrating the touching tribute Beethoven paid to Mozart’s most daring quartet. Informal performances will complete the day.
ABOUT YOUR COURSE:
This day will focus on two great quartets: Mozart K464 And Beethoven Op 18 No 5.
Join the charismatic Chilingirian Quartet for an enlightening study of Mozart K464 and Beethoven Op 18 No 5 Quartets, that aims to illustrate what a touching tribute Beethoven paid to Mozart’s most daring quartet!
Held in the beautiful surroundings of West Dean College, West Sussex is internationally recognised for conservation and creative arts. It has one of the greatest restored gardens open to the public. A unique place to study, visit or stay, it is a centre of excellence, creativity and tranquility. Underpinning it all is the vision of founder and Surrealist patron Edward James, connecting today’s students and visitors with a rich heritage of arts, craft and creative possibility.
LEVEL: SUITABLE FOR ALL
A subject focused course that is delivered to suit any level of experience from beginner to advanced practitioner. A structured start is followed by guided independent practice.
(provisional – this may be adapted by the tutors during the course)
Music appreciation Saturday 23rd April 2016 – Bartók and Beethoven
This event is suitable for all levels of music appreciation. A one day course focusing on two contrasting quartet’s: Bartok’s Third Quartet and Beethoven Op 18 No 1.
“Daring and virtuosic music”
There is no better introduction to Bartok’s music than his Third Quartet!
An amazingly concentrated work of 15 minutes with two sections of wildly contrasting music. Mysterious sounds are set alongside wild glissandi and Hungarian Folk Dances!
We complement Bartok with Beethoven’s Op 18 No 1, his first calling card to the Viennese public announcing that a new and revolutionary Quartet composer has arrived at the end of the 18th Century! Daring and virtuosic music including a depiction of the Vault Scene from Romeo and Juliet.
We’ll be hosting more music appreciation days this year. Sign up to our mailing list to find out more details in advance or drop your email details on the comment form at the bottom of this page.
LEVEL: SUITABLE FOR ALL
TIMETABLE (provisional – this may be adapted by the tutors during the course)
As Quartet in Residence at the Royal College of Music, the Chilingirian provides the vital dimension of chamber music to the training of outstanding young performers from all corners of the globe. Through its regular coaching sessions, lecture demonstrations and concerts, the Chilingirian has been instrumental in the formation of some of the world’s most sought-after ensembles, such as the Belcea Quartet, and has nurtured individuals who have gone on to very important roles in ensembles of international standing, such as Edward Dusinberre of the Takacs Quartet.
In February 2009, the Quartet inaugurated its own Fest dedicated to Haydn, giving high-profile performance opportunities to advanced students alongside lectures, concerts, and masterclasses given by distinguished musicians and colleagues.
WEST DEAN COLLEGE
West Dean is the stunning estate in rural Sussex where the Quartet course takes place every summer. It provides an opportunity for students to take part in concentrated study and daily coaching sessions with members of the Chilingirian Quartet. Ensembles are based in magnificent rooms in the main house, and take masterclasses followed by showcase concerts at the end of the week. Many young groups have used the course as a final preparation for important international competitions and concert engagements. The Chilingirian also gives its own concerts to packed and enthusiastic audiences during the week.
LAKE DISTRICT SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL
For over twenty-five years, the Quartet has been central to the development of the Lake District Summer Music Festival as an internationally recognized festival in one of England’s most beautiful areas. The Quartet performs with other resident artists, such as Steven Doane, Colin Carr, and Arnaldo Cohen, and teaches chamber music to students who gather from around the world.
Recently the Chilingirian has also led and directed performances of large-scale chamber works such as Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht, joined by student quartets and faculty colleagues.
THE VENEZUELA CONNECTION
The Chilingirian Quartet has established an exciting connection with Venezuela’s “El Sistema,” world-famous for its Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. The Quartet has been asked to further the chamber music education of the group’s highly talented young players by visiting Caracas to teach and perform with the older players who will pass on their experiences to their younger colleagues. Ensembles from “El Sistema” have been invited to the Quartet’s prestigious summer course at West Dean in England.
Music Appreciation day with the Chilingirian Quartet: Bartók & Beethoven 23rd April 2016
“Daring and virtuosic music”, Levon Chilingirian
A day suitable for all levels includes, tea, lunch, discussion, audience Q&A and performances by Levon Chilingirian, Ronald Birks, Susie Mészáros & Stephen Orton. In the beautiful West Sussex countryside at West Dean [tw-button size=”medium” background=”” color=”green” target=”_self” link=”http://bit.ly/1PmtrTc”]More details[/tw-button]
Music Appreciation Day: Mozart & Beethoven 22 May 2016
” Now that is a great piece!”, said Beethoven when a visitor noticed that he had copied out the entire Finale of Mozart’s A Major Quartet in one of his sketchbooks
Join the Chilingirian Quartet for an enlightening study of Mozart K464 and Beethoven Op 18 No 5 Quartets, illustrating the touching tribute Beethoven paid to Mozart’s most daring quartet. Informal performances will complete the day.
Levon Chilingirian leads a soul-searching programme of music composed from inside two 20th century prison camps. Messiaen’s titanic Quatuor pour la fin du temps performed in the Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz in 1941, follows Edgar Bainton’s dazzlingly harmonic op. 26 string quartet, composed at the Ruhleben internment camp in 1915.
[tw-button size=”medium” background=”” color=”green” target=”_blank” link=”http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/concerts-by-candlelight/quartets-for-the-end-of-time-with-the-chilingirian-quartet”]More Info & Book Tickets[/tw-button]
Commemorating the centenary of Armenian Genocide 1915-2015
The Chilingirian Quartet created a special multimedia project to mark the centenary of the Armenian Genocide in the month leading up to the anniversary April 2015 performing 10 songs by Komitas. As well as performances of these songs at the Armenian church in Chelsea, the videos included family archive photographs, articles, reminiscences and interviews. The responses included, “quite wonderful. This is so beautiful. Enchanting music,”, “I’ve just been watching your videos and reading about the project – which is absolutely wonderful. I love the images, the music and the touching stories, and I am finding the combination so powerful!”, Cheryl
“Not only is the playing and filming really beautiful but all the history and photographs are so interesting and moving also”
CREATING A CHAMBER MUSIC ACADEMY
FOR VENEZUELA’S “EL SISTEMA” The Chilingirian Quartet have recently been invited by Jose Antonio Abreu, father of Venezuela’s hugely successful “El Sistema” and the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, to create a new Chamber Music Academy in Venezuela.
In this exciting new role, the Quartet will spearhead a project of nationwide master classes, performances, and teacher training programmes. In addition, the Quartet will perform a series of concerts in the city of Caracas and provinces throughout Venezuela, starting in January 2010.
KING’S PLACE INAUGURAL CONCERT In October 2008, the Chilingirian Quartet was among the first musicians to perform at London’s spectacular new concert venue, King’s Place. The Quartet participated in the hall’s opening week festivities, and joined oboist Nicholas Daniel for the world premiere of a specially commissioned oboe quartet by Thea Musgrave. CELEBRATION AT WIGMORE HALL On October 20, 2008, the Quartet celebrated the 60th birthday of Michael Berkeley with Dame Felicity Lott, Julius Drake, and Thomas Carroll. TRIBUTE TO CLIFFORD BENSON The group commemorated the life and music of the late pianist Clifford Benson at the Royal Academy of Music, joined by many distinguished colleagues, including William Bennett, Anthony Pay, and Michael Dussek HAYDN BICENTENARY From December 2008 to April 2009, the bicentenary celebration of Franz Joseph Haydn offers a wonderful opportunity to honour a composer who has been a staple of the Chilingirian Quartet’s repertoire.
Between December 2008 and April 2009, the Quartet will join in an exploration of over twenty of Haydn’s quartets at Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, and the Castle Hotel in Taunton, where an ambitious week of concerts will include all of this great master’s quartets shared by various ensembles. For details, visit The Castle Hotel.
Between April 7 and 14, 2009, the Chilingirian will also collaborate with the Hilliard Ensemble in a programme of music for Holy Week, containing juxtaposed movements of Haydn’s Seven last Words on the Cross with Gesualdo’s Paraskevi… This program will be performed at the following locations: 7 April, Valencia, Spain
8 April, Wigmore Hall, London, UK
9 April, Konzerthaus, Berlin, Germany
10 April, St. Barnabas Church, Oxford, UK
14 April, Casteliotissa Hall, Nicosia, CyprusNEW MOZART CD The first of three volumes featuring Mozart’s complete viola quintets has recently been released on CRD. The second volume will soon be released. To purchase volume one, please visit CRD.
When creating your post, you can style many elements to get your point across. There is the standard strong tag, an em tag and a strikethrough. Maybe you want to declare some Abbreviations or add some inline code examples. Perhaps you have some text that is no longer accurate, or simply want to make an inline quotation or Quick Citation. Of course, it’s always nice to highlight something important if you need to. We can also style subscript and superscript so if you’re 2nd to Heisenberg you can create C2H60 in your spare time. You can even use older HTML4 tags like bold, italic, big or small. If you use the “kitchen sink” view you can also add underline styling and set text color.
“This is a blockquote element complete with a citation!” – Andre Gagnon, Themewich
This is a left aligned paragraph. Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. In nisi neque, aliquet vel, dapibus id, mattis vel. Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue.
Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. In nisi neque, aliquet vel, dapibus id, mattis vel. Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue.
This is a center aligned paragraph. Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. In nisi neque, aliquet vel, dapibus id, mattis vel. Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue.
This is a right aligned paragraph. Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. In nisi neque, aliquet vel, dapibus id, mattis vel. Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue.
Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. In nisi neque, aliquet vel, dapibus id, mattis vel. Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue.
We are releasing these short films one every 3 days up until the official commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on 24th April 2015. The first song appears here on Tuesday 24th March 2015. We will also be providing some historical background on specific photographs.
In July this year, Levon and some members of the Chilingirian Quartet will play 2 songs from Komitas at Iona Abbey, Scotland, as part of the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival, to mark the centenary of 1915. It should be a very moving and spiritual occasion in this centre of Christianity on the west coast of Scotland. We’d love to hear your comments on the films Do write to the quartet here This multimedia project created by filmmaker Kevin Laitak [tw-social icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/Chilingirians” title=”Share”][/tw-social]
Song 1: Hoy Nazan Im
Levon’s grandfather and mother
My grandfather Levon Chilingirian served as Choirmaster in Baku in the 1890’s and later in Constantinople and Smyrna. He was the first to introduce the organ into the Armenian Church in the early 1900’s. He was exiled to Jerusalem in 1922 where he died in 1934.
“Again, quite wonderful. This is so beautiful. Enchanting music. Great performance again” Ian
Levon Chilingirian writes about the photograph above which features in the next song:
The Boghossian Family is my wife, Susan’s maternal grandparents, later to change their name to Paul in the USA. Stepan and Isgouhi Boghossian (later Paul) had five children in the photo taken in Kessab, circa 1910.
Before Stepan went to the U.S. in 1914 they had a sixth child. Isgouhi was marched to the Deir Zor desert with her children and lost four of them. Her surviving daughter also died soon afterwards. She was a deeply religious woman and always kept her faith and never dwelled on the horrors she must have witnessed. Somehow, husband and wife found each other after the Great War and they moved to the U.S. where Susan’s mother was born in 1922. Helen Paul Pattie is now 93 and living in Minnesota, photographed here in the Lake District, England, 2014.
Song 2: Shoushigi
Song 3: Yergink Ambel (It’s Clouding Over)
26th September 1869 -22nd October 1935 was an Armenian priest, musicologist, composer, arranger, singer and choirmaster. He is considered the founder of Armenian national school of music and recognised as one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology. Orphaned at a young age, Komitas was taken technical Cathedral, Armenia’s religious center, where he received education at the Gevorgian Seminary. Following his ordination as vardapet (celibate priest) in 1895, he studied music at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He thereafter “used his Western training to build a national tradition.
He collected and transcribed over 3,000 pieces of Armenian folk music, more than half of which were subsequently lost and only around 1,200 are now extant. Besides Armenian folk songs, he also showed interested in other cultures and in 1904 published the first-ever collection of Kurdish music. His choir presented Armenian music in many European cities, earning the praise of Claude Debussy, among others. Komitas settled in Constantinople in 1910 to escape mistreatment by ultra-conservative clergymen at Etchmiadzin and to introduce Armenian folk music to wider audiences. He was widely embraced by Armenian communities, while Arshag Chobanian called him the “savior of Armenian music”
During the Armenian Genocide along with hundreds of other Armenian intellectuals—Komitas was arrested and deported to a prison camp in April 1915 by the Ottoman government. He was soon released under unclear circumstances and experienced a mental breakdown and developed a severe case of Posttraumatic stress disorder. The widespread hostile environment in Constantinople and reports of mass-scale Armenian death marches and massacres that reached him further worsened his fragile mental state. He was first placed in a Turkish military-operated hospital until 1919 and then transferred to psychiatric hospitals in Paris, where he spent the last years of his life in agony. Komitas is widely seen as a martyr of the genocide and has been depicted as one of the main symbols of the Armenian Genocide in art. (content from Wikipedia)
Interesting article here about Komitas published in The Guardian 2011http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/apr/21/komitas-vardapet-folk-music-armenia from which this is an excerpt:
‘Soghomon Soghomonyan – his original name – was born in 1869 to Armenian parents in Turkey, where the Christian minority endured routine discrimination.. Even in his teens he was a pioneer ethnomusicologist. Using the notation he had learned in the Armenian liturgy, he wrote down what he heard, devised three-part arrangements, and formed a student choir to sing them. Soghomonyan’s appetite for songs was voracious – one day, he noted with pride, he collected 34. His account of the ploughing song he found in the Armenian village of Lori reflects a remarkable ear: in his transcription, music, movement, and complex social relationships are seamlessly interwoven. In another village, he observed a girl singing to her dead mother: her plangently disordered song, he wrote, “expresses the sadness of her lot, and her inner world. If other orphans had heard it, they would have joined in. But after a while, that song would be forgotten. Because for the peasant, creating a song is as ordinary and natural as casual conversation is for the rest of us.” As an encapsulation of the essence of folk music, this could still not be bettered.’
Feedback on the Songs
Lovely to receive feedback about the songs and the project. We love to hear what you think. Keep your comments coming! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or email your comments using the contact form at the bottom of the page. Thanks
“This is a beautiful project – thank you so much”, Sossie
“Beautifully played and presented. Very appropriate too. Thank you”, Roubik
“I think it very fitting that you are creating a memorial in respect of the terrible events of the 20th century in Armenia..we will certainly watch your productions”, Jan & Michael
“Dear Suzie, Again, quite wonderful. This is so beautiful. Enchanting music. Great performance again. Alas no-one would ever write anything beautiful about my walk!! Ian
“Thank you so much for sending us these vibrant, touching recordings. It’s a really lovely project and you all sound full of life” – Sheena
“these songs are deeply moving and you play them most beautifully, as usual. Wonderful. A truly special and worthwhile initiative. Bravo everyone”, Garo
“This is a beautiful project – thank you so much”, Sossie [/tw-column] [tw-column width=”three-fourth” position=”last”] “A short note to let you know that I am finding the Quartet versions of the songs featured in your ‘Postcard for Armenia’ emails, absolutely amazing and so lovely. I am not sure how many people are aware of this project and I indeed feel lucky to be on your mailing list”, Sue
“Just a quick message to record my delight at these wonderful little films.The music is so vibrant and sparkling, which is the more poignant when you consider the horrors which were to overtake these creative and peaceable people. It has been a revelation and a joy to watch the recordings and I continue to look forward to the next one as the days go by. Thank you so much”, Arderne
“I am really enjoying all aspects of the Armenia project, thank you very much. Not only is the playing and filming really beautiful but all the history and photographs are so interesting and moving also. I only started watching today but I have caught up with all five. I shall forward them to various friends –one is half Armenian and both she and her 95 year old Armenian mother will love them”, Margaret
“Just a little note to tell you that I am enjoying the Armenian postcards that you have recorded. This must have brought us so many personal feelings and experiences….the whole thing remembers real people in a poignant and charming way”, love wissam”
“Thank you so, so much for sending these songs. I’ve enjoyed them so much, and listen to them in bed before gong to sleep! It’s so lovely to see you all playing so wonderfully too. And I’ve learned a lot more about Armenia and the terrible genocide, which was a blurry fact at the back of my mind before this”, Sue
“Thank you SO MUCH for sending these beautiful Armenian songs. I was totally transported, both by the music and the heartfelt playing. And this has made me aware of the approaching centenary of yet another terrible genocide, about which I should learn more”, Michael
“I’ve just been watching your videos and reading about the project – which is absolutely wonderful. I love the images, the music and the touching stories, and I am finding the combination so powerful!”, Cheryl
“Incredibly moved by these ‘postcards’ and am forwarding them to all my friends. We NEED to remember what happened in the past to avoid same mistakes/tragedies in the future. Just been to ‘Playing for time ‘ at Sheffield Crucible. Need I say more?”, Barbara
“Thank you so much for introducing me to these beautiful settings of Armenian songs. I have enjoyed them all so much but particularly Shoushigi and Shogher Djan (and more to come). The accompanying photos as well as the footage of the quartet playing make this a very moving experience. It has been an education learning about the Armenian genocide and an inspiration to hear this vigorous and poignant music”, Charles[/tw-column]
Song 4: Al Ayloughs
A recording of Komitas singing
“It has been an education learning about the Armenian genocide and an inspiration to hear this vigorous and poignant music”, Charles
Song 5: Chinar Es
Levon Chilingirian interview
Song 6: Shogher Djan (My dear Shogher)
Vahan Bedelian & his focus on music
Vahan Bedelian (above) was my great-uncle (my mother’s uncle, writes Levon Chilingirian).
He was educated in Adana and at the Darson (Tarsus) College. He was a violinist but also was a deacon in the Armenian Church for most of his very long life ( he lived well into his 90’s)
When our family was exiled to Aleppo during the First World War he saved them from deportation into the Deir Zor Desert by playing his violin to the Turkish Governor. As soon as he arrived in Cyprus in 1922, he formed a choir and played a very important role in the rehabilitation of the community through music. He formed and conducted orchestras, bands and choirs in Armenian, English, Greek and Turkish Schools and was active for well over 50 years.
In 1927, he undertook an educational journey to Western Europe. Primarily he visited Germany and France to enhance his musical knowledge. In Paris, he visited the asylum where Komitas was confined. He requested a meeting, but Komitas was not in a mental state to allow this. Having waited for a long time, Vahan finally asked the nurses to hand a letter explaining that he was a devoted church deacon from Cyprus and that it would be the greatest honour to greet him.
Komitas apparently just threw the letter onto the floor and ran out to the garden and refused to see him. Subsequently Vahan asked to have the letter back and on his return to Cyprus, had it framed in his music room. All his students were made aware of the significance of this Holy Relic!
Vahan Bedelian produced many many outstanding students. His nephew, Manoug Parikian( my maternal uncle) went on to lead the legendary Philharmonia Orchestra of the 1950’s and subsequently had distinguished career as a soloist, chamber musician and Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Vahan’s son Haroutune Studied at the RAM, won the BBC VIolin Competition and went on to study with Ivan Galamian in New York at the personal recommendation of Yehudi Menuhin. He has been on the Faculty of UC Irvine in California for almost 30 years, performing throughout America and Europe and producing many outstanding students.
Song 7: Kelle Kelle (Walk, Walk) A woman admires a man’s gait
Song 8: Echmiadzni Bar (The Wild Dance of the town of Echmiadzin)
[tw-column width=”one-third”]”This is wonderful quartet writing, the folk voice is so genial and persuasive in soothing the pain away April 13 at 10:56pm Carrie Ann, “You did it again…gorgeous”, Janet[/tw-column][tw-column width=”two-third” position=”last”]April 18 “Thank you very much for the ten wonderful Armenian songs on the quartets website. I’ve enjoyed them all very much, as I once enjoyed the old cassette tape recording bought at one of your summer courses at Sund in the eighties. The tape is long gone, so I was very pleased to hear the songs again. Kari and me performed five of the songs in a concert here in Oslo just one month ago, together with the Schumann quintet. And my student quartet (four ten year old girls) at the talent program Lørdagsskolen in Oslo are playing “The Red Shawl”. So your influence is still very present here in Oslo!”, Dag[/tw-column]
Song 9: Haprpan A duet between a boy and a girl
In the final song, ‘ Karoun A’, (It snows in Spring, A young lady loses her love) to be performed here, Levon Chilingirian writes a few observations.
my grandfather (below) was one of many choirmasters and composers who lived and worked in Constantinople from the late 19th Century until the sad events of 1915 and the final exile for surviving Armenians in 1922. He was mostly self- taught and from losing both his parents from a very young age and becoming an orphan he eventually established himself as one of the leading musicians in Constantinople. He was also the first person to introduce the organ into the our Church in the first decade of the 20th Century. The music in the photo below is written in his own hand
Aghtamar Monastry (below) was left into serious disrepair by the Turkish Government until only very recently, when restoration work was carried out to this 1000 year old gem. Until 1915 there was an adjoining Monastry and a thriving community of priests. It is situated on an island on Lake Van, one of the 3 Lakes in Historic Armenia
“I have just heard the ninth postcard. Thank you so much. I have loved them all. Of course I had to listen to them all again to enjoy the wonderful pictures separately. It was particularly moving for me to see the boy Manoug standing with his fiddle behind the big drum (in number 8). And of course I then had to listen to them all again. Your playing is consummate. Lovely passionate sections, and moments of such eloquence and purity.My love and admiration to you all”, Ian
Song 10: Karoun A
Final song marking Armenian Genocide centenary 24th April 2015
[tw-column width=”one-half”] “Thank you dear Levon and the quartet for this most beautiful and moving of all offerings… Bless you all”, Sirov, Garo Keheyan, Founder and President, “Pharos Arts Foundation [/tw-column][tw-column width=”one-half” position=”last”] “I really enjoyed hearing these beautiful pieces again after so many years! The whole presentation very moving. Please bring them to Suffolk”, Simon Rowland-Jones [/tw-column] “The last postcard is the best of all. Love it. I will enthuse on Facebook in a moment. The film is quite beautiful and all four of you sound magnificent, Sending lots of love”, Ian
Susie Mészáros, violist of the Chilingirian Quartet, reflects on the playing of the viola part and the songs featured here
This year marks the centenary of the Armenian genocide, which saw the systematic extermination and displacement of a million and a half Armenians by the Turkish state in it’s attempt to rid the Ottoman Empire of an entire Christian people. Such was the scale and cruelty of this genocide that Adolf Hitler himself referred to it when he was preparing to invade Poland, exhorting his generals to be merciless and brutal: “Send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women and children…Only thus shall we gain the living space we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
During the early years of the 20th century and leading up to 1915 an Armenian priest named Komitas was collecting folk songs in much the same way as Bartok and Kodaly did in Hungary – recording and transcribing for posterity the music of the Armenian people. Komitas survived the purge physically, but was mentally destroyed by the experience and spent the rest of his life in anguish, eventually dying in a Paris asylum. Among the Armenian diaspora were many musicians such as the family of Levon Chilingirian, the leader of my quartet: the Chilingirian Quartet, who fled to Cyprus. Also among these was Sergei Azlamazyan, an Armenian cellist and composer and co-founder of the Komitas Quartet who eventually settled in the Soviet Union. Azlamazyan wanted to be able to perform music from his homeland and so arranged for string quartet a number of songs from those collected by Komitas.
My quartet decided it would be a fitting tribute for this important anniversary to film performances of ten of these songs and release one song every three days leading up to the official commemoration day of 24th April. Along with the films there is a wonderful archive of photographs from the family album of Levon Chilingirian and his wife, also Armenian. Levon was the nephew of the great violinist Manoug Parikian, who appears in some of these rare and precious photos. The performances of the songs are interspersed with archive pictures, and the two together make a most poignant and touching record. The songs were filmed in the Armenian church of St Sarkis in London, and the project was devised and produced by filmmaker Kevin Laitak.
There is nothing quite like music to evoke the spirit of a people, the intangibility of which tells certain things more eloquently than words. In music we hear suggested the pattern of language through rhythm, inflection and articulation; the essence of a people’s relationship with dance and movement born from physical activity and labour (think of all the spinning, threshing, ploughing songs…); the overarching mood and disposition of a nation’s psyche. It is a call to the senses in a very direct way, bypassing the cerebral and overtly conscious. Folk songs are passed down through generations as an aural tradition much as the art of playing an instrument is passed down from master to student, by example. So classical musicians revisiting folk song are reminded of the building blocks of their own musical tradition which over time naturally evolves into something more sophisticated, abstract and self-conscious through its refinement. It’s good to make that journey back to one’s cultural fatherland once in a while.
These particular songs are a joy to play. As violist in a quartet my role in repertoire like this would for the most part be fairly fixed and determined. I would mainly be accompanying in the traditional way, providing harmony, texture and rhythm. But happily the viola part has been quite generously provided with solos in these songs, used as it were as an alternative vocal line – the contralto perhaps. The joyful Vahan-Bedelian (1)“hoy Nazan Im” is a boisterous greeting song where the viola stabs through with syncopation and bubbling, rippling lines.
“Shoushigi”, dedicated to a little girl, features a most warm and loving melody which is taken over by the viola for a whole verse. I adore playing this one, with its lilting dotted rhythms and sweet line. In some songs, such as “Al Alayloughs”, the viola has the last word, reminiscing the melody in a more wistful way to round off the song. Quite often the viola makes melodic interjections and commentary, such as in the lugubrious middle section of “Shogher Djan”, dragging the other instruments as if by gravity into the deep viola voice. At other times it provides waves of the most rich and searing harmonies – delicious and seductive.
“Kelly Kelle” is a conversational song about a woman’s admiration of a man’s walking gait! The viola strides along with the main melody, radiating vibrant warmth from the lower strings. Just because the register of the viola is lower than the violin’s doesn’t mean it necessarily depicts the male character – to me it is a deep and mature woman’s voice.
“Karoun A” – the sad Spring song which speaks of a young lady who loses her love. The viola seems to be mourning, weeping long sorrowful notes over and over. “Echmiadzni Bar” is a wild dance, very eastern in character, throughout which the viola plays the same tune as the violin but an octave lower. It is tough and gutsy, later becoming dreamy and filigree, then bursting back to its former punchiness.
“Haprpan” – a boy/girl song, full of conversation and fun, loving and longing. The viola is very busy with rhythms both bowed and plucked as well as the occasional cheeky interjection. The remarkable thing about these songs is the absence of awkwardness in marrying one form – folk song – with the medium of classical instruments. There seems to be no fault-line between the two elements, the best of each shining with ease and without compromise. There is richness, there is simplicity. Azlamazyan uses the instruments in a quite classical way without ever resorting to over-folkiness, yet we are without a doubt hearing folk music.
This has been a most powerful and fulfilling project. These songs are important because they are a magic thread that links us to a society that was all but obliterated. It’s astonishing how the songs together with the images connect us in a very human way with a terrible history that is not widely known in the West. We’ve had incredible feedback on the films, so the last word is from Arderne, one of the many people who wrote to us: “The music is so vibrant and sparkling, which is the more poignant when you consider the horrors which were to overtake these people. It has been a revelation and a joy.”
Article first published in the British Viola Society newsletter, May 2015
Seillans is a small, absolutely idyllic hilltop village, old tiny stone paths meander up to the top of the village to the beautiful church and square. There’s a great vibe in the summer with lots of visitors filling the restaurants & cafés. The Academy students have a big pool and garden (with horses!) at their accommodation and plenty of time to relax there. The house is very big and their hosts are very friendly with lots of games & fun. There is a gorgeous lake, Lac Cassien: http://www.paysdefayence.com/en/decouvrir/nos-espaces-naturels/lac-de-saint-cassien/
which is a 20/30 minutes drive from Seillans and great for swimming, pedalos, kayaking etc. The main high point of the academy aside from the teaching is the chance to attend all the other festival concerts and to eat meals afterwards with the whole festival orchestra, choir and team. The concerts take place in churches & chapels in different towns – all medieval hill-top like Seillans – and then everyone joins together to have supper outside post concert.