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: Komitas: Seven Songs

Hrayr Attarian By

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Pioneering ethnomusicologist Komitas (Soghomon Soghomonian) is best known for transcribing and preserving Armenian popular music in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was, however, also a singer, choirmaster and an accomplished composer in the western classical tradition. The 2017 Seven Songs on ECM label's New Music Series features expressive pianist Lusine Grigoryan interpreting 28 short and captivating Komitas compositions.

Grigoryan gets to the emotive and intellectual core of these pieces with vibrant elegance and exquisite subtlety. She showcases simultaneously the playful whimsy and the tender fragility common to the 12, brief, "Pieces for Children." She does it with agility, without being abrupt and exposes their full flavor and their effervescence all within their fleeting, under-a-minute time span.

The seven songs of the title vary from the melancholic and pastoral "Semplice" that resembles an autumnal landscape to the solemn and prayer like "Comodo Dark." On the former Grigoryan demonstrates rich feeling and reserved passion as she lets loose resonant and repeating Armenian folk motifs. The latter, she imbues with deep and exalted spirituality. Her hesitant chords sashay gracefully on the fluttering "Dolente" and she gallops across the keyboard on the dynamic "Allegrezza Energico" with lyricism and exuberance.

The third section of the album is called "Seven Dances" and consists of delightful and moving harmonic miniatures named after regional dances. "Yeranagi" for example has tiptoeing lines that gingerly overlap to build a crystalline tune. While "Het U Araj" is replete with charming ebb and flow that Grigoryan performs with shimmering hues.

The disc closes with a haunting gem, "Toghik." Written in 1915, the year of the Armenian genocide, the ominous and sublime melodic fragment consists of sparse cascading notes mixed with carefully placed silent pauses. Grigoryan reveals the raw sorrow and the mournful whimper within with deceptive simplicity and eloquent poetry.

This intriguing and poignant record is a well-rounded representation of Komitas' work. Thanks to Grigoryan's virtuosity and ECM's impeccable sound Seven Songs is a compelling disc that transcends genres and national heritages and delivers an intensely satisfying listening experience.

Track Listing: Semplice; II Dolente; III Allegro Non Troppo; IV Allegretto Semplice, Tempo Rubato; V Comodo; VI Nobile; VII Allegrazza, Energico; Msho Shoror; I Manushaki; II Yerangi; III Unabi; IV Marali; V Shushiki; VI Het U Araj; VII Shoror; I Allegretto Amabile; II Allegretto Amabile; III Vivo; IV Allegro Moderato; V Andantino; VI Lento; VII Vivace; VIII Moderato Con Giubilo; IX Con Alterezza; X Calmo; XI Moderato; XII Andantino Con Tenerezza; Toghik.

Personnel: Lusine Grigoryan: piano

Title: Komitas: Seven Songs | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

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