En présence d’Anahit Mikayelyan
du Musée Sergei Parajanov (Erevan, Arménie)
Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Atrium


Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Salle Garnier

Durée approximative 1h20

22H30 – AFTER

avec Gaspard Maeder et Hugo Meder, violonistes
Novotel Monte-Carlo

Programme du concert

Traditionnel ancien, Sahari (Arevagali)
Nerses Shnorhali
Aravot Luso

Komitas Vardapet
Shushiki de Vagharchapat
Yerangui d’Erevan
Manushaki de Vagharchapat

Grigor Narekatsi
Havik (transcription de Komitas Vardapet)

Georges Gurdjieff
Chant d’un Livre Sacré
Chants et rythmes d’Asie, no 11
Chants et rythmes d’Asie, no 40
Ho Ya
La Grande Prière

Komitas Vardapet
Gutane Hats Em Berum
Hoy Nazan
Hov Arek
Unabi de Shushi
Marali de Shushi
Mankakan Nvak XII
Msho shoror

Ensemble Gurdjieff
Levon Eskenian, direction artistique et arrangements

Music of the Arevortis

Emblematic figures of Armenian culture, Komitas and Gurdjieff were both driven, at the same period, by the same desire to communicate to the West the hidden treasures of the East. One could say that these two musicians were (with obvious differences) what the composer Avet Terterian said of his own musical identity – like a Christian temple under which glow the embers of a pagan altar.

For both artists, music was not an abstract discipline, detached from everything around it, but the signifier of another signified. Komitas placed music in a set of relationships between man and nature. For example, he developed his theory of music as healing by starting with the knar, the traditional Armenian four-stringed lyre, which he likened to the four elements – just as the weight of the elements becomes lighter, from earth to fire, via water and air, so the strings of the lyre become increasingly high-pitched. Komitas embraced the parallels set out by the Ancients about these relations and the makeup of Man, both physical and spiritual. He used to speak of Sage-Musicians, meaning by this that music had always been a means of acquiring knowledge and thus much more than mere entertainment.

After studying medicine, psychology and theology, Gurdjieff created a group called the “Seekers of Truth.” He developed a whole technique to access the meaning of existence and to find the place of Man in the cosmos. His research began in his native Armenia and led him through the Middle East, to Central Asia, India and North Africa. Music played a primordial role in his teachings, grouped under the title of the “Fourth Way”. Gurdjieff always spoke with emotion about the long evenings of his childhood spent listening to his father, a bardic poet of Greek origin, who recited ancient epic songs. On his travels, Gurdjieff collected many traditional Armenian, Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian, Greek, Persian and Caucasian songs, which formed the basis of the 300 or more compositions that he left us. He would communicate his music to a disciple, the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, who noted the pieces down and grouped them together.

Controversial or adored, Gurdjieff marked generations of intellectuals, artists and high-society figures in Russia, the United States and France. As a composer, he left a great impression on Keith Jarrett, who in 1980 recorded the disc “Sacred Hymns,” exclusively devoted to Gurdjieff’s music. “Prayer and Despair,” a work from Jarrett’s recording, is featured on tonight’s program.

Much like Gurdjieff, but more systematically and with an approach similar to that of Bartók in Romania or Hungary, Komitas travelled through all of Armenia, noting down countless Armenian, Kurdish and Yazidi songs and dances. Providentially, the fact that this was done before 1915 allowed the preservation of the memory of a soon-to-be exterminated musical civilization, large parts of which disappeared, along with the inhabitants of some regions that were totally emptied of their original population.

For this reason, Komitas is considered to be the true father of contemporary Armenian music. Ethnomusicologist, singer (who impressed Debussy during a concert in Paris, in June 1914), priest and composer, Komitas was trained both in Berlin and in Echmiatsin, the Armenian spiritual capital. He therefore mastered both the vocabulary of great Western music and the mysteries of ancient Armenian liturgical music, which he brought to a new level of expression. The present liturgy is the fruit of his profound reform, which, starting from the logic of Armenian musical thought and the particular construction of its modes, introduced polyphony into the liturgy.

While the ecclesiastical hierarchy around Komitas encouraged his initiatives in the service of liturgical music, it frowned upon his systematic efforts to collect traditional songs, rightly seeing in them the survival of ancient hymns – the flickering embers of the buried pagan altar. The “Six Dances for piano,” for example, are based on these popular Armenian songs and dances, which preserve the memory of ancient rites. The composer went as far as to indicate on the score the traditional instruments he was transcribing, as well as the way they were played. Levon Eskenian brings this music to life through a remarkable work of transcription, redistributing it to the instruments indicated by Komitas.

Finally, the concert program contains a special genre of traditional music, the Arevagali (also called Sahari), which literally means “for the rising of the sun.” These are hymns of sun worship, played on the zurna, a traditional double-reed wind instrument, over a particular dance rhythm. The link to the sun is part of the ancient Armenian identity, as Armenians once described themselves as Arevorti (“sons of the sun”). Arevagali were played in all rites and ceremonies that involved the idea of a beginning, such as weddings, celebrations of a birth, presentations of the cosmic tree of life and, especially, at the start of agricultural work, notably for the rite of ploughing the first furrow.

Michel Petrossian

Photo ©Andranik Sahakyan