By Florence Avakian
To a full house at the Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall, the 37th anniversary concert of the Armenian Prelacy’s Musical Armenia was celebrated on Sunday afternoon, March 6, with four outstanding artists performing –composer and pianist Tatev Amiryan, singer Anna Hayrapetyan, cellist Laura Navasardian and pianist Lilit Navasardian.
This year’s event was organized by the Eastern Armenian Prelacy Ladies Guild, the Musical Armenia Committee and generous patrons. The annual tribute, which was initiated by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian in 1982, has launched several musical careers onto the world stage.
In his thoughtful and moving message, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, who has always encouraged and furthered Armenian culture, emphasized the universality and understanding of music to all. “Perhaps, it is music in a sublime way that has a universal force that has given a colossus’ voice like Gomidas or Khachaturian to even a small nation” like Armenia.
“Perseverance,” the Prelate continued, “is perhaps one of the most underrated measures of success. As Musical Armenia begins its fifth decade, we look back with humble joy at our achievement and look forward with optimism and resolve to continue promoting our youthful talents.”
Composer and pianist from Armenia Tatev Amiryan, dressed in a flowing burgundy colored gown, warmly welcomed the large crowd on behalf of Archbishop Tanielian who was unable to be present. Representing the Prelate was the Vicar, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian.
Beginning the program with her compositions which comprised the first half of the concert, Tatev Amiryan masterfully played several solos including “Waiting for the Dawn,” inspired by a poem by Paruyr Sevak and dedicated to the life of the legendary Gomidas and his suffering.
Though sorrowful, there was a lyrical sense of optimism that eventually overrode the depressed feeling.
Several of Amiryan’s other musical themes, including “Tristesse” (Sorrow) – also dedicated to Gomidas, “When You Left”, “Danse Triste” – a lyrical homage to composer Edvard Mirzoyan, “Hiraeth” – grief for lost places, and “Last Lullaby” – based on a Ruben Sevak poem reflecting a mother’s heartbreak as she rocks her young son to sleep for the last time during the 1909 massacre, reflected the overwhelming sadness of Armenia’s history infused in these compositions.
For the piece, “Last Lullaby,” soprano Anna Hayrapetyan, garbed in a bright red gown, sang in a nuanced performance, with impressive breath control, expressing the mother’s soul-searing grief. In the work “When You Left,” the singer again displayed her strong vocal ability, singing from the highest forte to the lowest pianissimo with no strain and great emotion.
Tatev Amiryan emphasized her strong Armenian feelings in the delicate and lilting “Cradle Song,” dedicated to her youth and upbringing. The cheerful “Ortus,” based on the melodic tonality and rhythmic flow of “Shogher Jan” by Gomidas, created a “parallel between a woman’s image and the sun, as an origin of life and beauty.”
And “Spring in the Mountains” again brought to life the composer’s childhood in the glorious natural mountainous landscape of rural Armenia. The piece reflected the beauty of nature, and the season of spring as a “universal celebration of life.”
Tatev Amiryan is an award-winning composer and pianist whose works have been presented in Armenia, Russia, the United States, Japan, and Israel, as well as throughout Europe. She has performed extensively, as well as presented lectures-recitals at international conferences and festivals in the United States and England. She has both B.A. and M.A. degrees in composition and musicology from Yerevan’s Gomidas State Conservatory and is a member of the Union of Composers of the Republic of Armenia.
Soprano Anna Hayrapetyan has performed in solo and ensemble concerts in Armenia, the United States, England, and South America. She has a B.A. from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (Australia), an M.A. degree from the University of Connecticut where she was invited as a professor-in-residence, and at Southern Connecticut State University. She has had lead roles in “Rigoletto,” “The Barber of Seville,” “Eugene Onegin,” and Tigranian’s “Anush.”
Mother, Daughter Mastery
Following intermission, cellist Laura Navasardian and pianist Lilit Navasardian took center stage, displaying their vibrant and top-notch musical mastery. They played with great musicianship a difficult program by three world noted composers – Gomidas, Brahms and Tchaikovsky.
Both performers dressed in basic black brought to life “Tsirani Tsar” (Apricot Tree) by Gomidas, a beloved agricultural folk tune, replicating national forms and rhythms. Infused with Armenian material, Gomidas’ music is regarded by many as the foundation of Armenian music which “raised the standard of Western art music” not only in Armenia but internationally. And the Navasardians played with great feeling and superb vibrancy the charming song.
Brahms powerful Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99, is a powerful composition in four movements evoking strong emotions of bold turmoil pitted against lyrical, melodic lightness. Both artists played together with great understanding and synchronism, bring out the full strength of the work.
Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo capriccioso,” Op. 62, is another masterpiece originally composed for cello and orchestra, a sober piece dedicated to the composer’s dying friend. It was conducted by Tchaikovsky with the orchestra in a first performance in 1889 at a special concert of the Russian Musical Society. Again, Laura Navasardian and Lilit Navasardian displayed their great musicianship, complimenting each other in this evocative work.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Laura and Lilit Navasardian played an encore, “Concerto Polonaise,” Op. 14, a resonant concert work by David Popper, a Bohemian cellist and composer.
Laura Navasardian, a native New Yorker, started playing the cello at age six. She was the first prize-winner at the New York Music Competition, and winner of the Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition in Salzburg, Austria, both in 2016 when she was only 12 years old. As a winner of the Kaufman Music Center Concerto Competition at Merkin Concert Hall, she performed a concerto with the Kaufman Music Center Orchestra in New York. She has also performed as a soloist with the Boston Pops at Boston’s Symphony Hall. A high school graduating senior, she will be studying at the world-famous Juilliard of Music in the fall.
Lilit Navasardian, born in Yerevan, studied at the Gomidas State Conservatory of Yerevan, and at the Moscow Conservatory. Receiving a doctor’s degree from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music in piano teaching and performance, she is a laureate of the Busoni International Competition in Bolzano, Italy. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed in Armenia, Russia, the United States, Canada, Italy and Lebanon. Her chamber music appearances include guest invitations with the Chamber Orchestras of San Francisco, St. Petersburg, and Yerevan.
A Deserved Appreciation by the Audience
Following the performances, the four artists came onto the stage, all receiving multiple flower bouquets, and a long standing and cheering ovation. Several audience members greeted the performers in the concert lobby taking photos and again congratulating them.
Involved in this worthy project were tireless Musical Armenia Committee members – Julie Kedersha, Sophie Khachatryan, Annita Nerses, Varsenne Sarkissian, and Levon Tatevossian. The detailed concert booklet was under the art direction and design of Gregory Dosttur.