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In Nomine - Kurtag, Avanesov, Mansurian, Prokofiev / Pogossian, Manouelian, Avanesov

Kurtag / Avanesov / Mansurian / Pogossian
Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1301  
Composer:  György KurtágArtur AvanesovTigran MansurianSergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Movses PogossianVarty ManouelianArtur Avanesov
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

IN NOMINE Movses Pogossian, Varty Manouelian (vn 1 ); Artur Avanesov (pn) ALBANY TROY 1301 (59: 40)

KURTÁG Signs, Games, and Messages. AVANESOV Hommage à GK. Zemestani, Bahari, Beheshti. MANSURIAN Lamento. 1 Read more class="COMPOSER12">PROKOFIEV Sonata for 2 Violins

Of the five works on Albany’s program featuring violinist Movses Pogossian, his wife, violinist Varty Manouelian, and composer and pianist Artur Avanesov, four appear to be premiere recordings, with the exception of Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins. The recital opens with György Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages for solo violin. Its 10 movements, according to Marc McAneny’s booklet notes, belong to a larger set that’s grown progressively into 30 for various instruments, from which Pogossian has chosen 10 of the 16 for solo violin. Of these, only one lasts more than two and a half minutes, and two last less than a minute. Such brevity bespeaks a compression that packs a great deal into each note or gesture. Yet these pieces, “Jig,” for example, sound firmly rooted in traditional expressive patterns, both harmonic and melodic. “In Nomine” requires a degree of ethnic nuance that should almost by itself make it accessible to those attuned to Middle Eastern idioms. Certainly Pogossian seems so attuned, perhaps almost as a birthright, and his performance should capture the attention of all but the most jaded listener. Even if the short durations didn’t make the movements easily digestible, their idiomatic violinistic writing and melodiousness would do so, as their plaintive, impassioned monologue unfolds reflectively. The “Hommage à J. S. B.,” which lasts only a minute and a half, hardly suggests the music of the older composer, although McAneny cites the complexity of the lines as related to Bach’s in the solo violin sonatas and partitas. “Népdalféle,” at little more than a minute, recalls the writing for violin of Béla Bartók’s solo violin sonata. Nobody would need to check the subtitle (“faltering words”) of the Cage tribute, for its halting manner realizes it so descriptively. The haunting “Féerie d’automne” and the mournful “Doloroso” conceal a plethora of connotations in small nutshells; by contrast, “Perpetuum Mobile” sounds a bit like the similarly titled variation in Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. The Blum tribute, which Pogossian has placed at the end, turns out to be one of the longest of the pieces and combines the meditative quality of “In Nomine” with dissonant keening. Overall, Pogossian adopts a wide variety of manners in these brief works, yet his personality ties them all together.

Manouelian and Avanesov join Pogossian in Avanesov’s brief (1:20) tribute to Kurtág, which explores unfamiliar textural novelties while remaining highly accessible. Tigran Mansurian’s Lamento , from 1980, on the other hand, unpacks its message at a leisurely 8:36; its harmonic range seems wider than that of the preceding numbers, but Pogossian clarifies its rhetoric, which again seems, at least in his reading, very idiomatically written for the violin. It winds down, at its end, to a quiet conclusion. In this rarefied atmosphere, the restrained opening of Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins seems almost brashly straightforward, although filtered through Pogossian’s (and Manouelian’s) sensibilities; its quieter moments thereby gain in nuance, while its biting attacks assume an almost folk-like quality. The engineers have separated the two violinists, who, depending on the placement of the listener’s speakers, can appear to stand pretty far across the room from each other. The duo lends a sweetly musing quality to the third movement, while it invests the finale with a great deal of kinetic energy. The program concludes with Avanesov’s Zemestani, Bahari, Beheshti , which the composer’s own booklet note translates as “winter,” “spring,” and “paradise” (as adjectives). It’s a mercurial, atmospheric work, some of it taking exceptional advantage of violinistic techniques and rhetorical devices, and which demonstrates in this performance how much remains to be said in relatively traditional idioms when ethnic elements combine with modestly exploratory compositional techniques.

Even those not particularly adventurous but willing to explore this kind of repertory, strongly connected to the musical past, present, and future, should find the program both interesting and highly rewarding and the performances consistently insightful, revealing new meanings in old works and new ideas in new ones. An enchanted hour, enthusiastically recommended to almost all kinds of listeners.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Signs, Games and Messages by György Kurtág
Performer:  Movses Pogossian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989-1997; Hungary 
Hommage ŕ G.K. by Artur Avanesov
Performer:  Varty Manouelian (Violin), Movses Pogossian (Violin), Artur Avanesov (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Armenia 
Lamento by Tigran Mansurian
Performer:  Movses Pogossian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Armenia 
Sonata for 2 Violins in C major, Op. 56 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Movses Pogossian (Violin), Varty Manouelian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; Paris, France 
Zemestani, Bahari, Beheshti by Artur Avanesov
Performer:  Movses Pogossian (Violin), Artur Avanesov (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Armenia 

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