© 2019 by Francesco Di Cristofaro

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Vardapet Komitas    Piano Works 

1906 -1911

Vardapet Komitas (1869-1935) was an armenian priest, musicologist, ethnomusicologist and composer and he is considered as the father of Armenian modern music.
He travelled for many years across the area, recording, analyzing e collecting about three thousand traditional popular chants and melodies. Among his works the most relevant one for the Armenian culture is “Divine Liturgy” (Badarak), which is still today one of the most employed music of the Armenian apostolic church during the mass. 

For several years he thought Armenian music in different European universities, from Turkey to Egypt. 

In 1910, in Istanbul, where he lived, Komitas founded a choir of three-hundred members. On April 24th 1915, when Armenian genocide started, he was arrested and deported at Çankırı, central Anatolia. Komitas, together with other eight deported, was released thanks to the help of the Turkish poet Emin Yurdakul Mehmed and the female writer Halide Edip Hanım. 

After being witness of the genocide and of the disruption of his ten-year work of re- composition and researches in the field of Armenian music tradition, he suffered of severe illness; this is why he is considered of the martyr of genocide.
He died in a clinic in 1935. 

The piano solo show wants to pay tribute to this extraordinary figure; Komitas through his work and his life embodies the Armenian and the history of genocide. 

Program

-   Six dances for piano  (Vardapet Komitas) 1906

     I    Yerangi

    II   Ounabi

    III  Marali

    IV  Shushiki

    V   Yet-araj

    VI  Shoror

 

 

-  Seven Songs (Vardapet Komitas) 1911

    I      Semplice

    II     Dolente

    III   Allegro non troppo

    IV   Allegretto semplice

    V    Comodo

    VI   Nobile

    VII Allegrezza

 

 

- Twelve Children's Pieces on Popular Themes  (Vardapet Komitas)

 

 

-  Nairi      (Francesco Di Cristofaro )

    I     Vorotan

    II    Aras

    III   Azat

    IV   Debed

    V    Akhrian

    VI   Aghstev

    VII  Aras II

This album was born in these last years of study related to the Armenian musical tradition and from the curiosity and the need to bring to knowledge, especially to the vast Western public, the extraordinary figure of Vardapet Komitas.
Through his life, his artistic career and his immense research work not only in the Caucasian territory and especially in the re-proposed musical repertoire, Komitas, stands as a striking example of how ethnomusicological work can lead to the protection of an immense intangible and identity heritage , placing itself in this case on the terrible Genocide of the Armenian people caused by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the century.

One of the reasons why Komitas succeeded and reached the interest of several European musicians of his time, lies in his strong ability not so much of composer but of Rielaboratore to report and repropose on instruments of the Western tradition, in this case the piano, the musical identity of the archaic Armenian world, in a brilliant way, without virtuosity and excess, transporting and maintaining the melodic purity typical of traditional instruments such as duduk, tar and shvi and the variety and grandeur of traditional rhythmic formulas entrusted to instruments such as the dhol.
Komitas appears as a guardian of the popular tradition of Armenian music that re-elaborates and enhances the popular peasant melodies using the expressive means of contemporary musical art. This is why he is considered a great figure for the Armenian people and the father of current Armenian music

In all his piano works it is interesting to note how Vardapet Komitas has never thought and used transcriptions rich in virtuosity and technical refinement typical of an instrument like the piano, leaving space instead and focusing attention on the melodic and rhythmic textures always faithful to traditional Armenian melodies.
A striking example is the “Seven songs”, composed during his lecture series in London in 1911; seven small miniatures designed for piano are small melodic windows on the Armenian musical world, managing to mount small traditional melodies with the typical rhythmic pulsations of Armenian music.
The “Six Dances”, composed and performed by Komitas in Paris in 1916, are probably his most important and articulated work written and conceived for piano. In this work he appears, first of all, as an ethnographer, whose task is to realize the wealth of Armenian folk dances preserving, as far as possible, the rhythms and the specific timbres of some national instruments.
With his indications of the author, the composer tried to bring both the performer and the listener closer to the setting of the action, as well as the appearance and character of certain dance movements. Each dance is identified with its place of origin: Yerevan, Vagharshapat, Shushi and Karin.
The author tries to recreate through the sound and characteristics of the piano, an instrument far from the real and ancient Armenian folk tradition, some scenarios and timbres of the various Armenian instruments: for example “Het u Araj” and “Shoror” evoke the dhol (the classic Armenian percussion) and svhi (the traditional flute played by shepherds); Shushiki summons the tar (stringed instrument). The last worthy of the cycle, and also the longest and most articulate, is “Shoror of Erzerum”, classified as a heroic male dance. Komitas clearly indicates that it should be performed “majestically and heroically”, as well as an imitation of the shvi and dhol, which usually accompanied that dance during folk festivals.
In the whole work, the rhythm is rich and flexible, followed by the different melodies harmonized by Komitas with great taste and skill, without ever obscuring the typical identity of the traditional melodies.
Continuing with the idea of re-proposing the traditional Armenian repertorie, transcribed for piano, Komitas introduced in the “Twelve traces for children based on popular themes” some traditional melodies collected during his years of research in an elementary form, easily understandable for young beginner musicians, following the footsteps of the pedagogical works of Bartok and Khachaturian. Completed in Poland in 1910, this set of miniatures includes several popular melodies, many of which also appear as variants. These pieces are mostly very short, in which a simple melody is presented followed by small repeated elements with small rhythmic and melodic developments. The pieces 2, 6 and 10 are any variation of the pieces that precede them. The seventh piece is based on the same song that appears as the first of the “Seven Songs”.
Following in the footsteps of the Armenian composer, Nairi, is a tribute by the author Francesco Di Cristofaro to Komitas through 6 small movements, focusing attention on simple and rhythmic melodic plots that reflect the Armenian musical world with a more western perspective, almost as a spectator of the great Caucasian musical world.