Saturday, December 8, 2012

Komitas Vardapet "Komitas" and Shogher Jan, A Note by Payman Akhlaghi (2012)

Komits Vardapet, "Komitas"
Armenian Composer
Founder of Modern
Armenian Classical Music
On Komitas Vardapet, "Komitas", and His
Shogher Jan for String Quartet
A Note By Payman Akhlaghi (2012)

Komitas (1869-1935): Armenian Composer, Founder of Modern Armenian Classical Music, Permanently Traumatized by the Events of the Genocide of the Armenian Population

First published on 12/08/2012 on
© 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

Yesterday evening, I was walking toward my car, when I caught myself almost humming an Armenian dance tune in a fast 3/8 (or combined 6/8), composed (or arranged) for string quartet by Komitas. [1] I had heard the work for the first time more than 2 decades ago, in 1991, when it was performed by the string orchestra of Tehran Music Conservatory; although in the years since, I might have once more heard a recording of it, as well. The tune is in the major mode, with a buoyant rhythm, and enough repetition, all of which would make it hard to forget. Still, why this theme, then, and there, virtually out of blue? Music is strange.

In fall 1993, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a major concert at Hollywood Bowl wisely paired Komitas' choral arrangements of Armenian melodies with Gorecki's Symphony No. 3, a.k.a. Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, in commemoration of the Holocaust. As I recall, the large choir was an ad hoc group consisting of Armenian Americans who'd gathered to prepare for this particular occasion. The impression that I got from Komitas' choral pieces was that of a pioneering figure, one who had tried to converge the Western classical tradition with the music of his native land. The music was straightforward and clear, an evident attempt to build up his musical culture from the foundation. (On that note, the packed auditorium did not virtually breathe for the entire duration of Gorecki's symphony. It was an event to remember.)

As I was preparing for this note, I learned [2] that Komitas lost both parents before he was 10, and was later permanently traumatized by the events of the Armenian genocide, including himself being sent to exile by Turkish rulers, only to be saved by foreign intervention. The torments that such a sweet innocent soul must have endured demand a moment of contemplation...

[1] A performance of "Shogher Jan" for string quartet. The theme I spoke of above can be heard immediately after a short introduction:
[2] Komitas on Wikipedia
[3] Score of Dances for piano (arranged?) by Komitas. A cursory look suggests their accessibly melodic and "fun" nature for intermediate pianists:

(*) Sources:
© 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye. Thank you very much.