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Composer Gaining International Audience

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  • Composer Gaining International Audience

    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.