52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  




Tigran MANSURIAN (b. 1939)
Ars Poetica (1996-2000) - Concerto for mixed choir a cappella (Poems by Yeghishe Charents): Part I: Three Night Songs; Part II: Three Portraits of Women; Part III: Three Autumn Songs; Part IV: And Silence Descends
Armenian Chamber Choir/Robert Mlkeyan
rec. live, 6 June 2003, Saghmosavank Monastery, Armenia
ECM 1895 [46:45]

Tigran Mansurian is perhaps a name unfamiliar to many in Western Europe. He doesn’t get even a mention in Norman Lebrecht’s ‘Complete Companion to 20th Century Music’ which is a serious omission. I have to admit that I was introduced to his work not so very long ago by a student of the Conservatoire where I work, with the performance of some of his songs and chamber work in a lunchtime concert. The ECM booklet is typically enigmatic in terms of biographical information, but a quick web search will tell you that Mansurian was born in Beirut, his parents moving to Armenia in 1947. He has since become one of Armenia’s leading composers. His early work was serial in orientation, but his mature oeuvre has a more modal character, and such are the works on this disc.
Mansurian writes movingly on the subject of the poet Yeghishe Charents, who was born in 1897 and died in Yerevan (where Mansurian now lives) in 1937, a victim of Stalin’s persecutions. ‘The sound and the pliant rhythms of his poetry … form the roots and the point of departure of my music. The sound is the rough quality of Charents’ language, the consonants reminiscent of heaps of boulders, the seemingly torn poetic forms.’ Mansuarian has chosen poems relating to the relationship between life and poetry, the ‘ars poetica’ theme which is a recurring motif in Charents’ work. The poems are given only in English translation in the booklet, but the imagery is clear, and Mansurian’s settings sympathetic – most often expressive, but rhythmically pungent and energetic where required.
This is easily accessible music, quite often simply written in largely homophonic choral settings, allowing the poetry to speak as directly as possible without elaborate contrapuntal trickery or overly complicated word-painting. These pieces were written over an extended period of time, the composer only working on the project ‘when the music itself yearned to be composed.’ Such personal and honest expressions deserve recognition, and ECM is once again to be congratulated on their refreshingly adventurous programming.
The Armenian Chamber Choir is a superbly disciplined and well integrated ensemble – no unwelcome diva’s poking through the choral texture. Only in the final extended movement, And Silence Descends, does a soprano rise in a climactic, arching musical gesture above the rest of the choir. You wouldn’t know that this was a live recording, and there are no extraneous noises. Readers who cherish Michael Nyman’s 1989 ‘Out of the Ruins’ will understand a little of what I mean about the special choral sound which both recordings share. There is a resonance in the Armenian language which you just do not get in Western choirs, or even Russian ones for that matter – a certain glottal openness which gives the music a timeless, ageless quality.
At a little over 45 minutes you may think this is a little on the short side, but there is plenty going on here, and Mansurian’s work with this poetry deserves to stand alone. Lovers of beautifully composed choral music should treat themselves to this recording, and those seeking to discover a new name will not be disappointed.
Dominy Clements




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.