By Assadour Guzelian
Sponsored by Ambassador of Armenia to the United Kingdom Dr. Armen Sarkissian, a concert was held at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on Sun., May 3, dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
The world-famous concert hall was filled to capacity by music lovers who had come to honor the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, as well as to enjoy an evening of excellent music. The concert was attended by prominent persons, including politicians and ambassadors of many countries.
Participating in the concert were the London Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Vassily Sinaisky; Royal Opera House soprano Anush Hovhannisyan; world-famous violinist Sergey Khachatryan; and the Philharmonia Voices Choir, conducted by Aidan Oliver.
In his opening speech, Sarkissian spoke about the Centennial and pointed out that although the concert was dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs, it was also a celebration of survival, rebirth, revitalization, and a triumph of life. At his request, the audience observed a minute’s silence in memory of the victims.
The concert began with excerpts from Mozart’s “Requiem,” faultlessly performed by the London Philharmonia Orchestra and the Philharmonia Voices, masterfully conducted by Sinaisky.
Hovhannisyan was given the task of interpreting parts of the second movement of Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” a complex work dedicated to the Jewish Holocaust that demands perfect vocal control for conveying intimately the sigh of suffering and sorrow felt by the genocide survivor. Hovhannisyan deserves every credit for immersing herself in the emotions of the composer and masterfully expressing them. It should be noted, however, that the Armenians in the audience were also hoping to hear Hovhannisyan perform an Armenian spiritual song suitable for the occasion, such as “Ter Voghormia,” “Horjam,” or “Havun Havun.” One felt the artist was not given the opportunity to manifest glory of her beautiful voce to its fullest extent.
Accompanied by the outstanding London Philharmonia Orchestra, Sergey Khachatryan, the exceptionally talented young violinist, played “Krunk” (Crane), Komitas’s soul-stirring, nostalgic song. The impact of Khachatryan’s captivating performance will remain in the memory of many for a very long time.
Komitas’ s “Krunk” was followed by “Hayr Mer” (Our Father) and “Surb Surb” (Holy Holy) from the Armenian Mass by Makar Yekmalian, performed (in Armenian) by the Philharmonia Voices, conducted by Aidan Oliver. The choir sung both pieces with perfect pronunciation. In expressing the vocal value of every word, the Armenian audience was given the impression that they were listening to the choir of Holy Etchmiadzin. The performance was superb.
The second part of the concert was dedicated to the music of Aram Khachaturian. Accompanied by the London Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Sinaisky,
Sergey Khachatryan played the entire “Violin Concerto.” No doubt, many present had heard the concerto more than once. I personally have heard it many times, but never the way Khachatryan performed on this occasion. It is a piece full of colorful melodies and intricate nuances superbly interpreted by the young violinist. There was perfect understanding between the soloist, the orchestra, and the conductor.
On the stage, the artist was absorbed in moments of emotional enjoyment, which also engulfed the audience. Khachatryan’s violin produced sounds that were magical, captivating, and mesmerizing. He is truly an exceptionally talented artist. I am sure if Aram Khachaturian were alive, he would have given Khachatryan the same accolade. The young violinist’s performance was received with stormy applause and prolonged shouts of appreciation, which brought him back to the stage a number of times.
The last item on the program was a selection of music from Khachaturian’s “Spartacus” ballet, masterfully played and conducted by the London Philharmonia Orchestra and Vassily Sinaisky, respectively. The performance was received with prolonged applause and encores. In response to the persistence of the audience, the orchestra played Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” creating an atmosphere of great enthusiasm and joy.