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Arshak IKILIKIAN (b. 1948)
The Courageous Nazar - Ballet in one act (1981)¹
Piano Concerto (1986)* ¹
Superpulse, for percussion and computer (1999)
Success, for violin and computer (1998)
Crash, for clarinet, bass clarinet and computer (1999)
Nairy Grigorian, piano*
Armenian National Radio SO*¹
Gevork Muradian, conductor*¹

Thomas Sandberg, percussion
Birgitte Bærentzen Pihl, violin
Fritz Berthelsen, clarinet, bass clarinet
Recorded in Yerevan, Armenia, 1987 (orchestral works); DIEM, Århus, Denmark

2nd November (Success) and 16th -17th Dec 1999 (Superpulse and Crash).
DACAPO 8.224181 [70.26]

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This is an interesting disc of varied music, from a fairly wide time-scale, by the Danish resident Armenian composer Arshak Ikilikian. His move from his native land to western Europe is contemporaneous with a shift from conventional instrumentation to a more electronic (electro-acoustic) palette of sounds. It is probably worth mentioning that the renowned antipodean composers Percy Grainger and Douglas Lilburn both had similar career trajectories - starting in lyrical, folk-imbued idioms and ending in much more experimental, if still accessible mode.

The orchestral pieces, the ballet Courageous Nazar and the Piano Concerto, both written in the 1980s, are vigorous, dynamic works, owing a great deal to the influences of Bartok, Stravinsky and, unsurprisingly, fellow Armenian Khatchaturian. They are by turns highly rhythmic and lyrical but are perhaps, in the final analysis, not original enough to demand a wider audience. The recording, it has to be said, does not do these pieces any favours, sounding too much like a radio broadcast to these ears.

Far more impressive are the electronically enhanced pieces, although even here, with pieces written in the last five years, the computerised music is sometimes rather (deliberately) primitive. However, there is a great deal of intelligent, interesting and listenable material in the three pieces; anyone enamoured of the recordings of Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie or the Safri Duo will love Superpulse; Thomas Sandberg's performance certainly elevates him into that exalted bracket. Success is in some ways more traditional, with some haunting interplay between violin and computerised accompaniment. The basically eastern nature of the composer's music, so evident in the earlier orchestral pieces, is re-emphasised here. Crash features, once again, an instrument that I am particularly fond of and have written about a great deal recently, in various reviews, the bass clarinet. Once again, Ikilikian puts it to excellent use, drawing on the primal aspects of its sounds, to round off the disc in fine style.

Da Capo have created an excellent showcase for the composer and I have to say that the recent, more individual works, impressed me far more - they are much better recorded, for sure, but also say more about Ikilikian as an individual than the accomplished but ultimately quite derivative earlier orchestral works. The composer also painted(?) the rather garish booklet cover illustration but, I am pleased to say that most of the music on the disc is a great deal more interesting.

Neil Horner

 


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