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KOMITAS (Soghomon SOGHOMONIAN) (1869-1935)
Légende Arménienne
Miniatures (arr. Sergei Zakharovich Aslamazian) [36:11]
Eugénie ALÉCIAN (b. 1952)
Un quatuor arménien (An Armenian Quartet) [18:32]
Akhtamar Quartet (Coline Alécian (violin), Jennifer Pio (violin), Ondine Simon (viola), Astrid Wauters (cello))
rec. 2019, Concertgebouw de Bruges, Belgium

If you, like me, are a fan of Eastern-sounding music then you are bound to fall for this disc from its first notes and what follows simply builds on that. The harmonies and melodies are heart-rendingly gorgeous.  Komitas, as Soghomon Soghomonian came to be known, was an ethno-musicologist whose painstaking work of collecting songs and melodies resulted in preserving for posterity over 3,000 of his country’s musical heritage tracks just as Bartók and others did for their country’s folk music.  Sergei Aslamazian, a Soviet Armenian cellist who founded the Komitas quartet, arranged 14 of the collection of miniatures for string quartet and the result presented on this disc shows the success of this work. Once heard, it is difficult to imagine them being played in any other form.  The gentle and beautiful sounds, innocuous yet intoxicating, with a feeling of heartbreak present at the edge of one’s consciousness, are rendered all the sadder when one knows the story of the disaster that befell the people of Armenia at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, when Turkish troops carried out what is considered the first modern genocide; as many as 1,500,000 Armenians were massacred.  They were accused of being traitors, siding with Russia against Turkey in the First World War when Turkey had lined up with the Axis powers. These lovely melodies almost cry out on behalf of the people which gave birth to them.

As a daughter of Armenian exiles, composer Eugénie Alécian is continuing the tradition of documenting the music of her roots and has composed An Armenian Quartet which also embodies the almost tangible emotion these powerful melodies carry in their every note.  With her composition she wished to show that music, perhaps more than any other genre of human expression, can transcend horror and create a message to carry on down the years that Man’s indomitable spirit can and will rise above even the greatest wickedness, leaving beauty in its wake.  Though Eugénie Alécian was born and raised in France, the pull of her parents’ country of origin has exerted the strength motivating her to create music which reflects Armenia’s tragic past, which includes the appalling loss of life brought about by the massive earthquake that hit the country in 1988, killing upwards of 50,000 and leaving half a million people homeless. 

The opening Allegro is overladen with a feeling of sadness bordering on despair yet embodies elements that suggest the unshakeable spirit of determination the country has to survive, thrive and overcome whatever Man and Nature throws its way.  The Andante builds on this, while the third movement Tarentelle shows that, whatever happens, Armenians will continue to sing and dance. The Finale sums up all these aspects, leaving the message that the country and its people will rise above all life’s obstacles, letting its unquenchable spirit shine as a beacon to mankind with the message that hope springs eternal.  Armenian rhythms are indelible features permeating the work and Eugénie Alécian has done her country and its people proud by adding an important musical document to her country’s artistic legacy. 

It must be added that the composer’s daughter, Coline Alécian, founded the Akhtamar Quartet in 2014 and as a result, the expected commitment to both the music on the disc and its sentiment is keenly shown throughout in these finely nuanced performances which bring out every ounce of feeling the music seeks to express.

Steve Arloff


Légende Arménienne:
1.Al aylughs (The Red Shawl) [2:14]
2.Yerkinkn ampel e (Clouds) [2:35]
3.Oh, Nazan [2:26]
4.Krunk (The Crane) [2:32]
5.Shogher jan (Dear Shogher) [4:40]
6.Shushiki (Girl’s Dance) [3:13]
7.Khumar (Folk Song) [1:27]
8.Vagharshapat (Vagharshapat Dance) [2:12]
9.Kele, kele (Stalk Along) [1:41]
10.Chinar es (She’s slender Like a Plane-tree) [3:48]
11.Habrban (Festive Song) [1:21]
12.Keler, tsoler (My Love is Shining) [3:00]
13.Garun a (Spring) [3:21]
14.Kagavik (Little Partridge) [1:41]
Un quatuor arménien:
15.Allegro [5:21]
16.Andante [5:58]
17.Tarantelle [3:33]
18.Final [3:44]