Notes and Editorial Reviews
At the outset I'll admit that soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian--not the musical program--was the reason I chose to listen to this recording. In fact, any opportunity to hear this extraordinarily gifted singer is worth it, no matter the repertoire, and although most listeners will be unfamiliar with these religious songs and hymns from the Armenian Church liturgy, Bayrakdarian's performances will make your acquaintance a happy experience. After hearing this young Canadian soprano at a chamber music festival in Montreal several years ago, then later in Dresden in a Handel opera, followed by a Messiah performance last year (again in Montreal)--all of them by chance, it's clear that this is a singer who not
only is unusually versatile but is one who can totally command a role or embody a song or enthrall an audience with the strength, clarity, and expressiveness of her voice and (seeming) effortlessness of her technique. If you haven't heard it already, you will here: Isabel Bayrakdarian is a major artist in the making, a singer who has the intelligence, vocal equipment, and patience to ensure a long and significant career, whether on the opera stage or recital hall.
Having said that, the present recording, which is the result of a celebration in Toronto last year of "the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as Armenia's state religion" offers only a taste of Bayrakdarian's vocal skills. The music, primarily characterized by very long melismatic lines and slow-moving harmonies, sung in a highly ornamented style with firmly inflected rhythms, resides mainly in a comfortable middle-register (owing to the music's functional origin). This is not really the repertoire to fully display Bayrakdarian's substantial talent. Nevertheless, there's no denying that there's a world-class singer at work here, and she obviously takes these pieces, which in some form she's sung since a small child, with the same seriousness as her other work.
Perhaps sensuous is not an appropriate word for describing a performance of religious music, but that's one of the words that comes to mind in listening to these deeply felt, richly colored renditions, notable for the singer's remarkable control, use of the breath, and tonal consistency. She's accompanied by a chamber orchestra, in simple and tasteful arrangements by composer Petros Shoujounian, and for a few selections she's joined by the Elmer Iseler Singers. For the very touching song Miayn soorp (You are the Only Holy One), Bayrakdarian performs in a vocal duet with her mother, Lalig. As her career develops, we're sure to be hearing a lot more from this promising artist--and hopefully we won't have to wait very long for that to include recordings that really show what this exciting singer can do. [5/4/2002]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
O Joyous Light by Anonymous
Isabel Bayrakdarian (Soprano)
Elmer Iseler Singers
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