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Friday, May 31, 2019

Nikoghayos Tigranian, Armenian Dances, Mugam Arrangements, Mikael Ayrapetyan

I was lucky when I was a freshman in high school many years ago to happen upon a Hovhaness LP that intrigued me. One of the works was very much in an Armenian mode and I loved it. It led me to explore Armenian folk music records, more music by Hovhaness and eventually other Armenian composers from the homeland. So it was a most fortunate intersection for me. And now there is a new album of piano solo works by Nikoghayos Tigranian (1856-1951) that includes Armenian Folk Dances and Mugam Arrangements (Grand Piano 798), all in a World Premiere recording. Pianist Mikael Ayrapetyan gives us rhapsodic and dynamic readings of the some 16 works on the album spanning Tigranian's output from 1894 through 1935.

This is a wonderful set of works that dwells decidedly in Armenian folk mode territory yet also comes across with the expressivity of 20th century art music. The liners inform us that Tigranian was among the important first generation of Armenian composers and folk song collectors that included Komitas Vardapet, who for me is the more familiar name among them. They set about preserving folk songs and dances in a systematic way and through their own compositional talents set the stage for an classical Armenian local style that of course stays with us today.

Anyone who knows and loves the very special Armenian take on Middle Eastern harmonic and otherwise minor-moded presence will find this music rather irresistible, I would think. There is a good hour of music that maintains a high level of contentful intensity throughout, beginning with the 11 Armenian Folk Dances from 1935 and on through some very worthy opuses that are in fact the Mugum Arrangements alluded to in the title--the "Bayati Kurd, Op. 2" of 1894,  "Bayati-Shiraz, Op. 3" of 1896, and the piano versions of the 1897 "Heydari, Op. 5," and the 1899 "Shakhnaz, Op. 6," and then finally the 1907 "Nouruz Arabi, Op. 10."

The music is first-rate and well performed. Anyone who loves the Armenian tinge will welcome this. Those not familiar with what that means will find this a very good introduction to it as well. Recommended with a big smile.

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