NEW YORK CITY, NY—To a full house at the Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall, the 37th anniversary concert of the Armenian Prelacy’s Musical Armenia was celebrated last Sunday afternoon with four outstanding artists: composer and pianist Tatev Amiryan, soprano 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 a thoughtful and moving message, Prelate of the Eastern Armenian Prelacy Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, 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,” he said. “Perseverance 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.”
Amiryan, dressed in a flowing burgundy colored gown, warmly welcomed the large crowd on behalf of Archbishop Tanielian who was unable to attend. Representing the Prelate was the Prelacy Vicar, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian.
Beginning the program with her compositions, which comprised the first half of the concert, 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 melancholy 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 “Last Lullaby,” 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.
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.”
“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, and throughout Europe. She has performed extensively, as well as presented lectures and 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. She’s 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.”
Following intermission, mother and daughter pianist Lilit Navasardian and cellist Laura Navasardian took center stage, displaying their vibrant and top notch musical mastery. They played with great musicianship in a difficult program by three world-noted composers: Gomidas, Brahms and Tchaikovsky.
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 School of Music in the fall.
Lilit Navasardian, born in Yerevan, studied at the Gomidas State Conservatory of Yerevan and 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.
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. The Navasardians played the charming song with great feeling and superb vibrancy.
Brahms’ 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 synchronicity, bringing 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 the Navasardians displayed their great musicianship, complementing each other in this evocative work.
Greeted with a standing ovation, they played an encore, Concerto Polonaise, Op. 14, a resonant concert work by David Popper, a Bohemian cellist and composer.
The artists all received multiple bouquets and a long standing and cheering ovation. 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.