March 20 2004

Composer Gaining International Audience
By Anastasia Tsioulcas

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian is a man of
passion and intensity.

Whether discussing his friendship with Dmitri Shostakovich,
describing his childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, or recounting the
influence of William Faulkner's writings on his work, Mansurian
punctuates his reflections with sweeping hand motions and piercing

Yet the 65-year-old's music exemplifies the power of the small and
subtle gesture. Renowned violist Kim Kashkashian -- herself
Armenian-American -- explains the appeal of Mansurian's music this
way: "His writing is very distilled, very concentrated. The intensity
is extreme."

Mansurian says his music is steeped not just in Armenian music and
history but is also influenced by a Japanese artist he observed some
30 years ago.

"I saw an ikebana artist creating a composition from flowers," he
says, "and the theory behind this art is to reveal beauty through
simplicity. When they cut off leaves, you can see the childhood of
the plant. From that emptiness, you imagine and create life

Despite his renown at home and his friendships with such colleagues
as Arvo Part, Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, Valentin
Silvestrov and others, Mansurian is not well-known internationally.
But that is rapidly changing.

Since their first meeting several years ago, Kashkashian has become a
champion of Mansurian's work, and the composer has written several
works for her. Kashkashian's advocacy has blossomed into a long-term
commitment to Mansurian from producer/ECM label head Manfred Eicher.

The first fruit of that relationship arrived last July, when the
Munich-based ECM released "Hayren," a disc that included Mansurian's
piece "Havik" as well as songs by the revered Armenian
composer/ethnomusicologist Komitas (1869-1935), arranged by

On March 30, ECM continues to explore Mansurian's work with a two-CD
set titled "Monodia." Two compositions on the new disc were written
expressly for Kashkashian: the 1995 viola concerto "And Then I Was in
Time Again ..." and "Confessing With Faith" for viola and voices (in
which Kashkashian is joined by the Hilliard Ensemble).

"Lachrymae," a piece for viola and saxophone, is played here by its
dedicatees, Kashkashian and saxophonist Jan Garbarek (who makes his
instrument sound remarkably like the traditional Armenian duduk).
Rounding out the collection is 1981's Violin Concerto, played by
Leonidas Kavakos.