Amici: Armenian Chamber Music

Album cover art for upc 722056260923
Label: ATMA
Catalog: ACD22609
Format: CD

Joaquin Valdepenas: Clarinet, David Hetherington: Cello, Serouj Kradjian: Piano, Benjamin Bowman: Violin, Isabel Bayrakdarian: Soprano

Arno Babadjanian: Trio for violin, cello, and piano / Elegy for Restive Souls for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
Parsegh Ganatchian: Oror
Aram Khachaturian: Trio for clarinet, violin, and piano
Alexander Arutiunian: Suite for clarinet, violin, and piano

Wholenote Discoveries - April 2010
Armenian Chamber Music is the 10th release from Toronto’s Amici Chamber Ensemble and their first for the ATMA label. Pianist Serouj Kradjian, who recently replaced founding member Patricia Parr, brings a wealth of repertoire from his homeland as well as his own compositional skills to the mix. The other core members, clarinettist Joaquin Valdepeñas and cellist David Hetherington, are joined by violinist Benjamin Bowman in various combinations for works by Arno Babadjanian, Aram Khachaturian and Alexander Arutiunian. An unexpected treat upon listening without first checking the liner notes, was the warm and compelling voice of Isabel Bayrakdarian in Oror, a lullaby for soprano, clarinet and four cellos by Parsegh Ganatchian. Guests for this track are Hetherington’s TSO colleagues Winona Zelenka, Roberta Janzen and freelancer Amy Laing. Following Kradjian’s haunting and dramatic Elegy for Restive Souls the lullaby has a magical quality that leaves us regretting its brief duration. Khachaturian’s Trio for clarinet, violin and piano with it unusual Andante con dolore opening movement leads gently out of the lullaby, but is lively, playful and lyrical in the movements that follow. Arutiunian’s 1992 Suite for the same forces brings this fine new disc to a rambunctious close. David Olds
The Amici Chamber Ensemble presents a disc of often overlooked, but exquisitly beautiful chamber works by Armenian composers.
This disc shocked me not just because of the title, which I felt would be limited scope, but also because of the beauty of the compositions. When looking at the back of the disc, at least two names were familiar; Aram Khachaturian (of Sabre Dance fame), and Alexander Arutiunian (whose Trumpet Concerto has become a well-known showpiece). I was not prepared for the glorious opening work, a trio for violin, cello, and piano, but Arno Babadjanian. The word exquisite does not begin to desciribe the work. There is a longing in this music that tugs at the heartstrings. Another highlight is the work by Ganatchian, which features Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. It is truly a luxury to have her on this disc, even if just for one track. All the praise given to this CD is not enough. Here is a collection of rare works that deserve to be heard and performed more. A wonderful recording, and a great surprise!
The Amici chamber ensemble has been at the forefront of the Canadian chamber music scene for the past two decades. Their first recording on the ATMA label features Armenian chamber music by such composers as Aram Khachaturian. Arno Babadjanian had a trail-blazing career as a virtuoso pianist and composer of everything from pop tunes, jazz pieces, and movie scores to major classical works. The latter include concertos, symphonies, string quartets, sonatas for piano, violin and cello, and the Piano trio in F sharp minor, which was completed in 1952. Arno Arutiunian won the State Prize of the USSR in 1949. The Suite for Clarinet, Violin and Piano was commissioned by the Verdehr Trio and was premiered in 1992. Throughout the work, Arutiunian’s idiom is rooted in the song tradition of his country. Over the last hundred years, the most popular lullaby sung in Armenian families was Oror (Lullaby) by Parsegh Ganatchian. A student of Gomidas and a composer of many choral and vocal works, Ganatchian was immortalized by this miniature. This recording features a new arrangement by Serouj Kradjian for voice, clarinet and four cellos sung by Isabel Bayrakdarian.

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