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September 14 , 2005

Culturescapes: Armenia and Tigran Mansurian

The Swiss festival Culturescapes, which last year focused on the Ukraine in general, and the music of Valentin Silvestrov in particular, in 2005 puts the spotlight on Armenia, land at the dividing line of Occident and Orient, situated between Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan. Tigran Mansurian is composer-in-residence at this year’s event, and many of his pieces will be played at this festival, held at locations in Basle, Dornach, Geneva, and Zurich, between October 31st and November 20th.

Participating musicians include Kim Kashkashian, the Hilliard Ensemble, Christoph Poppen, the Rosamunde Quartet, Ilja Scheps and Maacha Deubner, and Mansurian will also appear himself, as pianist, on the festival’s opening night (premiering his ‘Four Hayrens’ together with Kim Kashkashian).

The festival’s musical programme will indicate how impulses from religious music and from folk music continue to influence contemporary Armenian composition. Sacred and secular music of Komitas, for instance, Armenia’s unique philosopher-folklorist-composer will be featured, and there will be appearances by the outstanding duduk player Gevorg Dabagian...

Adventurously programmed, the festival features, in addition to Armenian composition of the past and present, music of Shostakovich, Debussy, Prokofjev, Schnittke, Machaut and more.

For full details, consult the festival web site www.culturescapes.ch

ECM New Series has just released the Rosamunde Quartet’s account of Mansurian’s String Quartets which is already picking up positive reviews. As The Sunday Times wrote: “Mansurian’s structures are built on a richness of harmony and melodic expression that allies him to late Beethoven. Both the first and second quartets – each cast in three movements – and the eloquent and dark single movement ‘Testament’, dedicated to Manfred Eicher and composed just last year, are played with miraculously sustained poise by the Rosamunde Quartet.”

Further ECM recordings with Tigran Mansurian are in preparation, including his ‘Ars Poetica’, performed by the Armenian Chamber Choir under Robert Mlkeyan, which will be released internationally at the beginning of 2006. The work, written between 1996 and 2000 is a ‘concerto for mixed choir a cappella’, based on poems of Yeghishe Tcharents.