avec Anahit Mikayelyan du Musée Sergei Parajanov (Erevan, Arménie)
et Michel Petrossian, compositeur
« Folklore arménien et art savant »
animée par Tristan Labouret, musicologue
One Monte-Carlo, Amphithéâtre


One Monte-Carlo, Salle des Arts

Durée approximative 1h

22H30 – AFTER

avec Vardan Mamikonian
Club des Résidents Étrangers de Monaco

Komitas Vardapet
Tsirani Tsar
Keler Tsoler
Leh, leh, yaman
Shogher Djan

Romanos Melikian

Eduard Abrahamyan
Akh inch lav en sari vra

Luciano Berio
Folk Songs (extrait)

Robert Schumann
Frauenliebe und Leben, op. 42

Richard Strauss
Allerseelen, op. 10 no 8
Morgen!, op. 27 no 4
Zueignung, op. 10 no 1

Karine Babajanyan, soprano
Vardan Mamikonian, piano

Poems of love and earth

An atypical character, being at the same time a priest, an ethnomusicologist and an accomplished musician (from interpreter to composer and choirmaster), Komitas defined himself as a “collector of music,” having brought to light just over 3,000 pieces of the Armenian folksong. Concerned to preserve this folk heritage and disseminate it, he applied himself to transcribing the melodies, rhythms and inflections typical of these songs, before adding an accompaniment that would blend the often-complex harmonies of Western music and the colors of Asian music.

His approach to Armenian folksong always strives to highlight the voice and text. Eschewing the constraints of Western rhythms, Komitas embraces the accents of the Armenian language– itself musical, by virtue of its fullness and sparkle. The result is a clear prosody, where the emotions of the text seem to be alive, sublimated by the music. A striking example of this is Tsirani Tsar (The Apricot Tree), with its accents on off beats, notably when the narrator pleads with his tree (“embrace my pain and my suffering”).

The various melodies acquire a dramatic quality that is reinforced by the piano accompaniments. Sometimes, the instrument precedes the voice’s entry by barely a few measures, discreetly introducing the first notes of the theme before weaving a moving decor, as in Leh, leh, Yaman, where the colors constantly shift, without ever hindering the singing. The latter unfolds with long held notes, allowing the voice to express all its sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant vibrations and melismas. In addition, there is the emphasis on close intervals, modulation and ornamentation, to intensify the lamentations of the emigrant’s song, Antuni.

More sustained at times, the piano is used in all its registers, creating a resonance to support the voice and also embodying some of the ideas in the text. Thus, rapid and arpeggiated motifs in the high register seem to represent the Crane (Krounk), an indifferent bird that never brings the long-awaited answer to the narrator’s refrain, “Don’t you have a little news from our country?” Then there is the sparkle of Keler Tsoler, a love song where the piano follows the inflections of the voice and its emotions in the manner of a beating heart that becomes excited at the mere mention the beloved and then calms down just as suddenly.

Komitas, whom Debussy called “one of the greatest musicians of our time,” succeeded in making this repertoire accessible to everyone, from the peasant humming these tunes in the fields to the professional musician. Several composers were to adopt the same approach, such as his compatriots Romanos Melikian and Eduard Abrahamyan.

Luciano Berio’s Folksongs bring us back to the West. In this cycle, the composer also starts with a folk melody, before giving it an accompaniment that reflects his own esthetic, through strong dissonances and jerky rhythms. The selected excerpt – Loosin Yelav (Moonrise), was written for the voice of his wife, the Armenian soprano Cathy Berberian.

The themes of love, nature and introspection found in Komitas’ works are also symbolic of his era beyond the confines of Armenia, as is evidenced by the lieder of Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss, both of whom celebrated their beloved through music.

After a long battle with his (future) father-in-law, Friedrich Wieck, Schumann finally obtained permission to marry his great love, Clara, in 1840, and threw himself body and soul into putting to music Alderbert von Chamisso’s cycle of poems: Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman’s Love and Life). The text is old-fashioned but Schumann weaves a personal vision, as he does so well, through rich and unexpected harmonies, thus defining a complex female character. From the first song, the protagonist’s anguish is palpable in Schumann’s short and hesitant phrases, and contrasts with the words: “As in a waking dream, his image hovers before me.” In cyclical fashion, the tune of the first song is also that which will close the final one, like a fate that it is impossible to escape.

As for Strauss, who was barely 21 at the time, he found in Dora Wihan a first love who undoubtedly inspired him to write his opus 10. His treatment of love and his handling of harmony in Zueignung and Allerseelen show an astonishing maturity. However, he ultimately married the soprano Pauline de Ahna, a few years later. As a wedding gift, he gave her Morgen! – a timeless lied to a text by John Henry Mackay, punctuated by Wagnerian harmonies and long whispered sentences, assuring the intertwined souls that “upon us will sink the mute silence of happiness.”

Coline Infante

Photo ©Komitas Museum-Institute