By Barlow Der Mugrdechian
The Music of Armenia: Volume Three: duduk (71’35”) and Volume Four: kanon/Traditional Zither Music (70’15”)
Celestial Harmonies, P.O. Box 30122, Tuscon, Arizona 85751
The third and fourth volumes of the excellent series The Music of Armenia have recently been released by Celestial Harmonies. Composer David Parsons has continued his exploration into the sacred and folk traditions of Eastern Armenians, begun with volumes one and two, which revealed the world of Armenian sacred songs and sharakans, respectively. In the new productions, listeners are introduced to the sound of two instruments traditionally employed by the Armenians; the duduk and the kanon, which are a vital part of Armenian music. Volume Three centers around the music of the duduk, a double-reed instrument developed more than a thousand years ago. The duduk, a relative of the Western oboe, is made of apricot wood. Gevorg Dabaghian is the featured soloist on this recording. His soulful sound draws the listener into a musical world which most will be unfamiliar with. But after a few minutes a listening, one will not be able to pull away from the powerful draw of this music. The duduk is part of the Armenian musical ensemble. Accompanying the soloist are Grigor Takushian, Eduard Harutunian, and Kamo Khachaturian playing other traditional Armenian musical instruments such as the dhol (drum) and the drone duduk. The settings are purely instrumental although traditionally the duduk was associated at least in part, with the Armenian ashoughs (troubadors). The works of the ashoughs form a distinctive repertoire within Armenian music. In the twentieth century there has been a good deal of interest in the works of the ashoughs, whose music displays the sophistication, depth, and versatility of a classical musical tradition.
Instrumental renderings of the famous troubadour Sayat Nova highlight the eighteen recordings on this CD.
The kanon is the featured instrument in Volume Four of the series. Soloist Karineh Hovhannessian enchants with her rendition of traditional and folk music on the kanon. Many of her recordings are of instrumental works which were originally vocal works. More than likely the kanon was used to accompany the early folk songs or the recitation of epic poems. The kanon , a type of zither, is an instrument well known in Middle Eastern traditions. Similar to the tradition from which arose the duduk, the kanon was also used to render the ashough tradition in works by the famous twentieth century musician Gomidas Vardapet and the tenth century Armenian composer Khachatour Avetissian, who is credited with developing the Armenian version of the kanon and creating the first body of works for it. The music of the poet and ashough Sayat Nova is also recorded in these songs. Nineteen traditional songs are recorded on this CD which captures the essence of Armenian traditional music. Both Compact Discs reviewed are of excellent quality and would make an excellent gift for anyone.