Armenian News Network / Groong April 10, 2007 Entertainment Wire by Sahan Arzruni NEW YORK, NEW YORK Composer Tigran Mansurian is anointed with the chrism of Armenian music. During the past two weeks, New York audiences had the opportunity to hear two local premieres by this distinguished composer: Con Anima for string sextet at Merkin Concert Hall on March 27, and Agnus Dei for clarinet, violin, cello and piano at Weill Auditorium at Carnegie Hall on April 6, 2007. Con Anima, composed for viola and string quintet and commissioned by the Concertante ensemble, is in the form of a modified concerto grosso. This remarkable score, structured in five interconnected segments, features the viola as the chief spokesman, delivered here by Ara Gregorian with immense dignity and humanity. Con Anima is a highly reflective, almost brooding work. It contains some of the most remote, harrowing, and strangely beautiful music. Unadorned lines hover and cross over the space. Sounds gather strength, then dissipate into the void. There is an ambient darkness and pain present, but they somehow become softer, tempered by an air of resignation and a profound sense of nobility. As the composer articulates in his program notes, `Con Anima carries the tone of confession: in this case, `telling the truth' is equivalent to speaking from the depths of the soul.' Agnus Dei, is similarly a meditative work, stark yet haunting. Inspired by the text of the Mass of the Roman Rite, each of the three movements is designated by a phrase used in the liturgical text: Angus Dei (`Lamb of God'), Qui tollis peccata mundi (`Who takes away the sins of the world'), Miserere nobis (`Have mercy on us'). This is music of inner harmony -- musical and mystical. There seems to be an eternity of space and time for Mansurian's music to vibrate, with its whiffs of incense and flutterings of C)lan vital. I love the great strength of vision and energy, and the ear -- his ability for hearing sounds in music. Mansurian's Agnus Dei sounds teetery, vulnerable and brittle; yet there is sufficient luminescence in the score to set a diaphanous feel, illuminating and enlivening the mood. The Baird Trio (violinist Movses Pogossian, cellist Jonathan Golove and pianist Stephen Manes) who played the Mansurian's Agnus Dei with guest artist clarinetist Jean Kupperud, presented an intelligent, unfaltering and finely polished performance. Tigran Mansurian's music is a contemporary mutation of Komitas' language. It speaks the same words; it articulates the same phrases; it communicates the same sentences -- only in greater scope, larger breath and wider sweep. -- Sahan Arzruni is a concert pianist and an ethnomusicologist. He has toured China and Vietnam, performing and giving master classes, and has delivered a series of lectures on Arshak II at the request of the San Francisco Opera Guild.
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