Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concerto No. 2,
“Four Serious Songs”
Candida Thompson, cond;
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (vn);
Anja Lechner (vc); Amsterdam Sinfonietta
ECM 0020274-02 (62:34)
Tigran Mansurian (b. 1935) is arguably Armernia’s most renowned composer. He certainly has hit the jackpot as one of Manfred Eicher’s “adopted” composers, which gives him superb exposure and resources for the dissemination of his work. I don’t say that with an upcoming put-down, either. There is much that is strong, personal, genuine, and imaginative here.
Mansurian is definitely in the mystical/lyric/Eastern school, which includes composers such as Kancheli, Silvestrov, Kissine, and Pärt, all of whom are part of the ECM roster. His music is closely tied to Armenian folksong. (I say this from surface listening and the notes; I’m not expert enough to tell exactly the nature of the sources and his process of transformation.) This program is all string music for soloists and orchestra. The sound of massed strings against the plaintive voice of either violin or cello (or both) has a natural warmth and gravitas that’s almost impossible to resist. The music is largely modal, but it doesn’t feel simplistic.
is from 1978, the
are from 2011 and 2012 respectively, and the Violin Concerto No.2 was written in 2006. The two for soloist with string orchestra are shorter single-movement works; they have a free, contemplative quality (indeed, almost as though spoken, as one title suggests). Strangely, I found myself reminded a bit of Vaughan Williams (as in
The Lark Ascending
) except of course the music’s surface is far different. But there
a feeling of deep-rooted ethnic song embedded in the music, and it seems as though the soloist in each is delivering a soliloquy, accompanied by the fluttering, approving murmurs of the surrounding crowd.
Like almost all composers of the second half of the 20th century, Mansurian has changed, and it’s most evident when we compare the
with the violin concerto, written almost three decades apart. The former is in two movements, which are highly contrasting. The first has moments of high Expressionist tension and anguish, it cries out with the lamentations of a ravaged prophet. The second is hushed and hymn-like. Together they make a moving diptych.
The Violin Concerto No. 2 is, as its subtitle suggests, in four movements, but they flow from one another in manner that suggests contrasting sections of a single-movement work. It is far more homogeneous and less chromatic than the
, though it does still have plenty of room for contrasts. But what distinguishes this piece is an exceptional fragility of sound and gesture. The violin must often play in its stratosphere, with stillness and purity. Harmonics, soft tremolos, microtonal inflections, and glissandos—all these meld into a special sound world. I’ve heard a lot of music that investigates this quality, but I admit I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a piece that sustains it so well for so long. The effect is genuinely mysterious and haunting.
Both soloists are exceptional, though I must give special plaudits to Kopatchinskaja. I had known of Mansurian for a while, but this was my first close encounter with his work. I think it would be a good introduction for any listener, and one that will not disappoint.
FANFARE: Robert Carl
Works on This Recording
Double Concerto for Violin and Cello by Tigran Mansurian
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (Violin),
Anja Lechner (Cello)
Period: 20th Century
Romance for Violin and Strings by Tigran Mansurian
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (Violin)
Quasi Parlando by Tigran Mansurian
Anja Lechner (Cello)
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