Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cassiopeia. Mi Tango. Perseus. De Profundis. Vientos. Pleiades
Duo46; Ch Ens
ALBANY TROY1219 (61:24)
(Winds) represents the idea of Hayg Boyadjian’s diverse musical influences being “blown” together, then it was wisely chosen as the title track on a disc where throughout, the 72-year-old French-Armenian composer is acutely aware of his surroundings and homelands, and the possibilities that they bring up for musical invention. Aside
from nature’s forces, three of his pieces here take their inspiration and motifs from astronomy, while with his song cycle
he tackles the ancestral tragedy of the Armenian genocide of 1915. These works of constellations, elements, and tragedy were written between 2003 and 2009, dedicated to specific musicians, some of whom perform on this disc.
makes for a forthright opening, as the five-note “W” figure (the Cassiopeia constellation as mapped out on the stave) is passed from player to player, woven cleverly into the score. Although dedicated to a clarinetist, it is a very even-handed chamber piece, switching from acidic humor to a mournful, empty conclusion, and it is noticeable how much of Boyadjian’s French heritage shines through in the splashy piano writing and spikiness.
After such primary colors,
’s introspection comes as a shock. Stunningly played by Aaron Larget-Caplan, this solo guitar piece is an energetic homage to Piazzolla’s modern tango style, although there are many innovations of rhythm and sound effects from Boyadjian. Despite being unpredictable in tone, this is arguably the most accessible track here. Then comes a return to astronomy, this time notating the six main stars of
, which are then set to chords in intervals of thirds and sixths. This mathematically intricate little piece’s chief delight is not so much its structure but its texture, scored as it is for cello and flute, a lovely pairing of sinew and sugar. There is nothing sweet, though, about
, a chilling, mainly tonal cycle of three German poems, Trakl’s
, then Rilke’s
Der Tod eines Dichters
. Written for soprano Gayane Geghamyan, the singer here, Boyadjian’s allusion to the Armenian massacre is rather abstract, although that hardly matters with such expressive settings of these morbid texts. Geghamyan sings with great drama and a very full, dark tone, not beautiful but certainly striking, but the price to pay is cloudy diction. Her voice is so dark, I honestly thought she was an alto until I saw what roles she sings.
Moving on from such chilly morbidity,
is an evocative, frenzied work, pairing the Mediterranean heat of the mandolin and guitar with the starker insistent violin writing, making moments of drama and unease gradually subside into a more optimistic feel. This twisty, delightful score is played with real gusto by Duo 46, confidently fusing all the stylistic elements that Boyadjian throws together.
The final and most substantial track,
is another Rubik’s Cube of a work, taking the constellation’s pattern of five main stars and two smaller ones as a template, with five performers working with two motifs of five and seven notes. What appeals more than the structure is again Boyadjian’s ear for texture. The folk writing for two flutes (one a specially adapted native American flute) never cloys, especially when he tempers their bright shimmer with the astringency of viola and cello, with the added color of marimba, creating an ethereal, nocturnal world. It is a very different mood from
and, as with every work here, there’s a profusion of ideas and color. In fact, in the end it is hard to see what singly defines his music, aside from repeated motifs and matters of the universe.
The trouble is that there is something for everyone, from the
instrumental showpiece to the inward-looking and forbidding song cycle, so that the disc does not work that well as a single program. Each piece is very rewarding and Boyadjian has an ingenious love of structure and logic throughout these very disparate works, but I would still recommend you dip in and out. Albany has done this intriguing composer proud with excellent notes and translations and bright no-nonsense sound.
FANFARE: Barnaby Rayfield
Works on This Recording
Cassiopeia by Hayg Boyadjian
Suren Khorozyan (Clarinet),
Karen Kocharyan (Cello),
Armine Grigoryan (Piano)
Mi Tango by Hayg Boyadjian
Aaron Larget-Caplan (Guitar)
Perseus by Hayg Boyadjian
Tigran Gevorgyan (Flute),
Karen Kocharyan (Cello)
De Profundis by Hayg Boyadjian
Gayane Geghamyan (Soprano),
Anna Mandalyan (Piano)
Vientos by Hayg Boyadjian
Pleiades by Hayg Boyadjian
Brian Blume (Marimba),
Kathryn Lukas (Flute),
Yolam Baruch (Cello),
James Pellerite (Native American Flute),
Rose Armbrust (Viola)
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