Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Loris TJEKNAVORIAN (b.1937)
Symphony No. 1 Op. 20 Requiem for the Massacred (1975) [27.31]
Symphony No. 2 Op. 28 Credo (1980) [22.06]
Armenian Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/composer (1)
Helsinki Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra/composer (2)
rec. Athens, 1988 (1); Helsinki, 1980 (2)

Tjeknavorian is Iranian by birth. At one time, in the 1970s into the 1980s, his exclusive contract with RCA (now BMG) produced a prodigious crop of LPs many of which have never been reissued on CD. ASV-Sanctuary rekindled his international recording career with a large number of Soviet composer recordings - many central Asian. As a composer his presence was announced internationally by several LPs on Unicorn - the label for connoisseurs of the leading edge. These included the ballet Simorgh and the First Symphony (for percussion ensemble, celesta and John Wallace's trumpet). Lama coupled his first two symphonies on their LP LAM001. This included a new lease of life for the Unicorn version of the First Symphony.

The present disc is on Tjeknavorian's own label and gives us the two works in their authentic versions with choir.

The symphonies respectively mark the 60th and 65th anniversaries of the apocalyptic slaughter of the Armenians in 1915. The First Symphony's massively weighty clashing dissonance and wailing massed choirs resounds and thrashes with awesome Old Testament barbarism. Mixed in we also hear a style related to the furies unleashed by Penderecki during the avant-garde 1960s. Textures lighten for the stamping Requiem third movement whose high-pitched writing for woodwind and brass recalls Shostakovich. A Middle Eastern sinuous wail appears for the first time at 1.30 in tr. 4. The exhaustion of emotion and physical strength can be felt in the fifth movement finale Lament-Protest. Here the music rediscovers the gentle emotions of healing and tenderness. This is one of those works that, despite its brevity, radiates a Brucknerian timelessness and eternity. Uncomfortable listening but salutary and ending with a great savage scream of victory.

After too short a pause we move into the Credo Symphony which explores the same subject. Its four movements are played without pause although tracked individually. Like its predecessor Symphony the first movement is entitled Menace. The whispered quiet writing has some parallels with Panufnik and with Stravinsky's Rite. There is some truly magical writing here including some in which a mildly glowing canvas of sound is created (from 4.12). The seething fury-suppressed textures of the Polish 1960s are again in angry evidence. The Massacre movement is a little more transparent than its counterpart in the First Symphony. The music seems to hold the door open to some seething Gehenna but the infernal scene quickly fades to be replaced by a steely quiet tension. The Credo finale arises like a benediction - stronger and with more healing than anything proffered by the First Symphony. Through a ceaseless celebratory jangle of bells, hammers and other 'metallica' a noble Credo is sung by the choir. About it there is something of the Orthodox church's Easter benediction as well as the seductive diaphanous aural clouds released by Szymanowski in King Roger. The sense of blessing and sustained joy in processional also reminded me of Paray's St Joan Mass.

If you have the Lama LP you will know the version of the First Symphony for the London Percussion Virtuosi with solo celesta and trumpet. That stripped down instrumentation does allow greater transparency while at the same time accenting an unleashed fury similar to the central panel of Panufnik's Sinfonia Elegiaca. This is very raw music. The Second Symphony is performed on the Lama vinyl by the Helsinki Philharmonic but without choir. This recording sounds like a studio inscription possibly made during Tjeknavorian's visit to Helsinki for the concert premiere.

The experience of meeting these two works is like hearing first and second thoughts on related material. The symphonies meet unthinkable tragedy on its own terms; there is no shying away; no evasion. They make uncomfortable listening but in the Second Symphony the Credo brings balm without washing away the memory.

Rob Barnett


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