Martinů, Komitas, Mansurian, and Bartók at Dilijan concert at Zipper Hall
By Ted AYALA
If further confirmation were needed that southern California is in the midst of a chamber music renaissance, then add the Dilijan series at Zipper Hall to the list. Dilijan, which was created by violinist Movses Pogossian and serves as the series’ artistic director, strives to not only bring great chamber music to audiences, but to highlight the richness of Armenian culture.
That aspect of Dilijan was front-and-center in the middle part of its recent program at Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
The folklore of Armenia was recalled in the selections from the “Six Dances for Piano” by Vardapet Komitas and played with a lively rhythmic sense by Vicky Ray. Subtle syncopations, spare textures, and gently mordant harmonies gave this set of piano pieces a decidedly modern cast that belied its 1902 vintage. Often the parts are reduced to bare octaves, or even down to a single line, pointing the way to the “monodia” that serves as the inspiration of the music of a later Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian.
Mansurian delivered in his portion of the program the world premiere of his new version of the song cycle “Canti Paralleli.” Originally comprised of three pairs of songs set to words by Armenian poets Baghdasar Dpir, Eghishe Charents, and Avetik Isahakian, Mansurian chose to expand his work with one more pair of songs on words by Vahan Terian. The result was an undoubted masterwork. Richly expressive and possessing a grave beauty, Canti Paralleli follows in the footsteps of Shostakovich’s late song cycles but without giving way to the despair that haunts so much of the Russian composer’s late music. Though the confessional nature of Mansurian’s music often darkens the character of his music, his music also exhibits a sensuality and ultimate sense of life affirmation absent in the work of the elder composer.
Pianist Ray returned as the superb and graceful partner to the dark hued voice of soprano Shoushik Barsoumian. The fervency of her commitment to the music, along with the arresting beauty of her voice, made it difficult to imagine any performance of this great work that could supersede the one at Zipper Hall.