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CD Review: The Music of Armenia

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.