On Sun., Oct. 18, Boston audiences had the privilege of hearing the East Coast premiere of Tigran Mansurian’s “Requiem” at a concert commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. The concert took place at Jordan Hall of the New England Conservatory of Music; it was presented jointly by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Friends of Armenian Culture Society, with participation by the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and the Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir.
Bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian and soprano Serena Alexandra Tchorbajian, appearing for the first time in a public concert in Boston, were the featured soloists in the 45-minute work.
Reviewing the concert, David Wright of the Boston Classical Review wrote: “It’s fair to say the entire concert, closing with Mansurian’s eloquent testimony to the enduring strength and adaptability of Armenian culture, contained more than just an element of hope for the human spirit.”
Commenting on one of the movements of the work, the Boston Globe’s Mathew Guerriere wrote: “It encapsulated the concert’s restrained tenaciousness, sustained sounds asserting continued presence, tracing a long arc bending toward justice.”
In a letter to the composer, Andrew Clark, the director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, expressed his gratitude and appreciation of the “Requiem.”
Below is the text of Clark’s letter, printed with permission from the author.
Dear Maestro Mansurian:
My name is Andrew Clark and I am a choral conductor and a faculty member in the Department of Music at Harvard University. This fall, our mixed choir—the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum—has had the extraordinary privilege to prepare and perform your ‘Requiem’ with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in a program presented by the Friends of Armenian Culture Society. We have been inspired, moved, and challenged by this profound work, and I wanted to share our gratitude and appreciation for the gift of your music to us and the world.
Most of our students study disciplines other than music: health sciences, engineering, literature, history, and government, among many others. They perform for pleasure and the love of singing, for the community the choir provides, and to look at the world through the lens of music. Three of our 50 singers come from Armenian families, all directly impacted by the Armenian Genocide. Our choir has not only prepared your remarkable score, but also taken the time to learn more about the history of Armenia, the horrible and tragic events 100 years ago and the persistent wounds left in its wake, including our own government’s refusal to acknowledge this event for what it was, a genocide. Your music has catalyzed a most important teaching and educational experience for our students, the majority of whom had no familiarity with the history of the Armenian people before we began on this journey a few weeks ago.
The experience of learning your ‘Requiem’ has proven to be one of the most significant and meaningful projects of my career. It represents, for me, the ideal functions of art in education: to sound warnings, to build solidarity, to claim empowerment, to affirm cultural pride, and to teach history. These students will go on to careers in various sectors, many of them no doubt on their way to leadership positions in our society. It gives me hope that their encounter with your work will help frame their view of art’s role in both healing and creating a more just society, now and in the future. Though they may not dedicate their lives exclusively to their art, they have learned how art can contribute to a richer and more meaningful life. This project and performance has enabled this for all of us.
All the best to you with our deepest gratitude and respect.
Director of Choral Activities
Senior Lecturer on Music