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Sona Shaboyan: Piano Music from Armenia (World Premiere Recordings)
KOMITAS (b. Soghomon SOGHOMONIAN) (1869-1935)

Three Dances for Piano: 1 Erangi - Dance from Erivan (Imitation of a tambourine) [03:41]; 2 Marali - Dance from Shush (Imitation of a "dapp") [01:21]; 3 Shushiki - Dance from Vagarshapat (Imitation of tambourine and "dapp") [01:31]
Aram KATCHACHURIAN (1903-1978)

Toccata [04:13]
Robert ANDREASIAN (1913-1986)

Arrangements for piano of songs by Komitas: 1 Garun [04:17]; 2 Hoi Nazan [01:52]; 3 Dzirani tzar [04:25]; 4 Kiamantcha [02:34]; 5 Jes mi garib Blbuli pes [03:47]
Georgy SARADIAN (1919-1986)

Arrangement of a song by Komitas: Krunk [04:46]
Alexander ARUTIUNIAN (b.1920)

Evening in Ararat Valley [03:31]; Soldiers´ Dance [02:20];
Arno BABACHANIAN (1921-1983)

Vagarshapat Dance [02:58]
Six Pictures: 1 Improvisation [03:04]; 2 Folk Song [01:53]; 3 Little Toccata [02:17]; 4 Intermezzo [01:52]; 5 Chorale [03:18]; 6 Sassun Dance [02:53]
Eduard MIRSOYAN (b.1921)

Poem [05:48]
Ruben SARGSIAN (b.1945)

Reverence to Komitas: No. 3 [00:53]; No. 4 [01:29]; No. 7 [02:35];
world premiere recordings
Sona Shaboyan (piano)
rec. Hardstudiois, Switzerland, 2005? DDD


This recital disc introduces us to many pieces never previously recorded. It should appeal to those who enjoyed the Hartmann (Naive) and Këngë (Guild) piano miniatures as well as to anyone who bought and relished the two Koch CDs of Hovhaness's piano music.

Komitas's piano music has been heard before. The 1970s Poseidon label which was owned by and a vehicle for Alan Hovhaness issued one maybe more LPs of this ethnocentric music. The Three Dances here are otherworldly, chiming in strange carillons and note sequences all cross-cut with delicate minuet-style figures having an unmistakably Oriental caste. There are no traces here of Ketèlbey kitsch. After the lulling beauty of these open air scenes the Khachaturian Toccata grips with its vertiginous, hammered and volleyed assaults. It is magnificently done by Shaboyan. I know it from the Moiseiwitsch recording which is tame by comparison with Shaboyan’s apparent delight in flirting with danger. Then come five arrangements by Robert Andreasian of Komitas songs. These lilt and sigh like flowers in a verdant valley but always with that Oriental sway and twist; a sort of Armenian equivalent of Peterson-Berger’s Frösöblömster. The Kashmatsa (tr. 7) is superb and catches the most lyrical essence of Medtner and Rachmaninov. Georgy Saradian's takes a more dissonantly impressionistic to arranging Komitas. Arutiunian is already well known for his concertos recorded on Chandos and elsewhere. His music here is lullingly restful, like John Ireland at his most relaxed, perhaps with some insurgency from Cyril Scott. In the second of the two pieces here there is a businesslike underpinning troika that links with Prokofiev. Babadjanian we know from an ASV CD. His Vagarshapat Dance is a work of hauteur and iron-clad elegance; quite irresistible. This is followed by his Six Pictures from 1965. Here the exotic accents are presented but they emerge and play chase with a whole palette of cut-glass avant-garde paraphernalia - both clamantly violent and dreamily disengaged.

The Mirzoyan Poem is the grittiest piece here. It begins with great thundering fistfuls of dissonance after which a fragile, fragmented soliloquy and mirrored hall of memory follows. Sargsian's tribute to Komitas is in three movements.

The booklet notes are in German and English. They include a profile as well as photographs of Shona Shaboyan.

The pieces are fully listed on the back insert which is virtually useless as the contrast, size and weight of the font against the background makes the names of individual pieces almost impossible to read - another triumph of design over utility. Oehms Classics are a serious company. They will I am sure hold their designers in check in future. This is not good enough and does scant service to a provocative and engaging conspectus of Armenian solo piano music. I hope that Shaboyan will give us a volume 2 and start to explore the legacy of Armenian piano concertos including those by Andreasian, Arutiunian, Hovhaness, Babadjanian and Sargsian..

A survey of Armenian piano music drawing on but not dominated by autochthomous voices. The music reacts with a varied landscape of early to late twentieth century techniques and motivation from an oriental brand of lyric consonance to melodic disruption and dysjunct gestural drama..

Rob Barnett

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