Istanbul hosts world premiere of new sonata by Tigran Mansurian

Kim Kashkashian, the American violist who made her debut in the 2013 edition of the Istanbul Music Festival, returned to the festival and the same venue — the ancient Surp Vortvots Vorodman Church in Kumkapi — on June 10, with pianist Pandeacuteter Nagy, to premiere a new work by Tigran Mansurian.
It was a musical match made in heaven. Its enthusiastic reception, coupled with such an ideal setting for a program dedicated largely to Armenian music, was a moment in history for the festival and Mansurian. The composerand’s richly emotional and”Sonata da Chiesa for Viola and Piano: In Memoriam Komitas Vardapetand” deserves worldwide attention and is destined to become a prominent piece in the viola literature.
Known for her aenturous repertoire that often includes contemporary and newly commissioned works, Kashkashian is a 2013 Grammy Award winner for her recording and”KurtagLigeti Music for Viola.and” Mansurian has previously written three works for her and he himself participated as pianist and vocalist the recording of one of them.
The June 10 world premiere was a commission from the festival organizers the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (iKSV). The 76-year old Mansurian, who is one of Armeniaand’s most revered living composers, was in attendance. Prior to the concert, he participated in a pre-concert interview with choir master and music teacher Hagop Mamigonyan. The composer revealed that the titleand’s and”Sonata da Chiesaand” (Church Sonata) referred to the Surp Vortvots Vorodman Church and it was dedicated to the Armenian ethno-musicologist, composer, and singer Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935), who spent the last days of his creative life in Istanbul.
Mansurian designed the piece to be an and”intermediate between Baroque sonatas and those of recent times, between alert texture and inspired speech,and” as well as an and”intermediate between speech and silence,and” according to the program notes. What is notable is the emotional richness of those particular and”intermediateand” expression. By leaning into the rich timbre of the viola — and not writing for it as if it were just a large violin — he exploited the velvet-voiced cousinand’s ability to profoundly project expansive and personal musical messages, surrounded by plenty of breathing space.
The pianistand’s role was similarly and supportively expansive, and the second movementand’s magical stream of a crystalline series of notes in the upper register created an otherworldly effect that permeated its overall texture. Nagy was a sterling partner to Kashkashianand’s deeply committed performance. It was obvious that the piece suited her and Nagy, but most it suited her viola most of all. By invoking the spirit of Komitas, Mansurian has written one of the most flattering and richly stated compositions for this instrument.
After a capable rendition of Bartokand’s colorful and”Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Pianoand” reworked for the viola — although less effective than the violin version — and beginning the program with a somewhat perfunctory and”Sonata for Gamba and Cembaloand” by J.S. Bach, Komitasand’ spirit returned to us as the last element on the program. Seven of his pieces, transcribed for viola and piano, displayed largely dolorous and wistful moods that occasionally diverged into a snappy folk dance or a grand proclamation. The spaciousness and simplicity of these wordless songs rang with a lovely and haunting reverence in the Byzantine church of Surp Vortvots.

A Members of the Alliage Quintet and violinist Jandoacutezsef Lenay perform during a concert titled and”Dancing Parisand” on June 8 at the Sandureyya Opera House in Istanbul. (Photo: Ali Ganduler)

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Another returning ensemble to the Istanbul festival schedule was the Alliage Quintet, who performed on June 8 in the Sandureyya Opera House. The five members, saxophonists Daniel Gauthier, Magdalena Lapaj, Asya Fateyeva and Sebastian Pottmeier, and pianist Jang Eun, were a hit in 2007. This time, they extended their exotic appeal with the addition of the noted Gypsy violinist Jandoacutezsef Lenay.
Their program, and”Dancing Paris,and” takes the listener to Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. Though some of the compositions were dated considerably later, each of the composers — George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, Leonard Bernstein, and Georges Ensecu — had a direct and career-shaping relationship with Paris.
An essential feature of Alliageand’s appeal is their arrangements. Their repertoire is music that is not written for saxophones, so they have a staff of arrangers, among them are Itai Sobol, Sebastian Gottschick, and Sylvain Dedenon. They deserve mention here because without their artful work, the pieces simply could not be rendered effectively from the original settings, which were generally orchestral. In most cases, they were cleverly distilled to capture the essence of the piece and bring a uniquely fresh approach and sound world to both classics and lesser-known works.
Outstanding both in arrangements and in Alliageand’s performance were Milhaudand’s jaunty and”Le Boeuf sur le toitand” (The Bull on the Roof), written for the Paris cabaret Comandeacutedie des Champs Elysandeacutees in the 1920s Bernsteinand’s and”Candide Overtureand” which crackled with the baritone saxand’s punctuating the catchy rhythms and the and”Hoedownand” from Coplandand’s ballet and”Rodeoand” where Gottschickand’s brilliant arrangement illuminated the uniquely American quality of Coplandand’s masterpiece.
Only the and”Rhapsody on Carmen,and” a re-imagined suite from Bizetand’s opera, suffered from its downward transposition of some of its major tunes into a darker key that stole the edge from the original keyand’s more compelling colors, despite effective insertion of mini-cadenzas for the piano. Similarly, the arrangement of Enescuand’s and”Romanian Rhapsodyand” began to wear thin due to its substitution of saxes, which deliver a considerable reedy punch, for the orchestral pieceand’s satiny string sounds.
Lenay, rather than showcasing his considerable gypsy prowess in this concert, more often than not became a member of the team, lending a valuable string color to the sound. He emerged more as a soloist in the encores of Grigorai Dinicuand’s and”Hora Staccatoand” and a tip of the hat to Turkey: and”anduskandudarand’a Giderken.and”

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman