NEW YORK CITY, N.Y.—A special benefit concert by acclaimed pianist Sahan Arzruni to benefit the Vanadzor Old Age Home in Armenia, will take place on Tues., April 5, at Merkin Concert Hall in New York, starting at 7:30 p.m. The Home, located in Armenia’s third largest city, Vanadzor, has been established in 2001 by the Kevork and Sirvart Karamanuk Charitable Fund, and is administered by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR).
In a conversation with this writer, Arzruni explained that some 60 residents live in the Home which has a staff of 27, including full time nurses and a doctor. In addition, every Saturday, the Home services about 30 homeless who are fed, and provided with shower facilities, and clean clothes.
To make the Old Age Home more visible, young people visit and interact with the residents several times a year, cleaning, and playing chess, tavloo and other games. In addition, the residents partake in other activities, including fishing, and tending an organic vegetable garden and bee hives that provide delicious greens and honey to their meals.
Though the Karamanuk Charitable Fund has been the backbone of the Home, more funds are needed to continue the Home’s quality of life. In light of this, the master pianist has been performing major benefit concerts during the past few months at the Armenian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Boca Raton, Fla., and in Philadelphia, Pa., with all five Armenian churches joining together.
On April 5, at Merkin Hall, the concert will feature New York and world premieres, as well as several works by legendary Armenian composers, Komitas, “the founder of contemporary Armenian music”; Alan Hovhaness, “the disciple of Komitas”; and Aram Khachaturian, “the ambassador-at-large to the music world,” Arzruni related.
An extraordinary surprise will be 11-year old violinist Simon Hagopian whom Arzruni describes as a “wunderkind” with whom he has worked. They will present Khachaturian’s Chant-Poeme, written in honor of Armenia’s troubadours.
Also performing will be accomplished percussionist Adam Rosenblatt who goes to Armenia every year, and works with the FAR. He will perform with Arzruni, the New York premiere of Alan Hovhaness’ “Invocations to Vahakn,” five pieces for percussion and piano, “dedicated to the god of fire in Armenian mythology.” Arzruni will also present the New York premiere of Hovhaness’s complete Yenovk cycle, composed in homage of Armenian singer Yenovk der Hagopian who introduced Hovhaness to Armenian music.
Hovhaness was a disciple of Komitas during his 1940’s Armenian period, Arzruni explains. “He has internalized Komitas’ music, and has created an aesthetic approach which is very close to Komitas. Hovhaness’s pieces are as spare as those of Komitas. They happen. One can imagine the piece going in various directions. It’s not framed, but instead, left to one’s imagination.”
Also on the program is Kara-Mourza’s Potpourri, a collection of Armenian urban folk songs, which was published in 1872 in Tbilisi where the composer primarily worked. “Kara-Mourza expertly weaves into the melody Armenia’s national anthem, “Mer Hayrenik,” ascribed to Parsegh Ganachian, but clearly, Kara-Mourza used it much earlier,” notes Arzruni, and points out that he was the first composer to write for piano from Eastern Armenia, and the first conductor to bring female and male singers together in a chorus.
Also on the program will be Aram Khachaturian’s complete cycle of “Recitatives and Fugues” which will receive its world premiere by the pianist. “The ‘Fugues’ were written as student pieces at the Moscow Conservatory in 1928, and then the composer added the ‘Recitatives’ in 1968,” Arzruni revealed. Komitas’ rarely performed “Moushi Shoror,” and Babajanian’s soul-searing “Elegy” are also on the musical menu.
Arzruni is a renowned concert pianist, composer, ethnomusicologist, producer, and teacher. He has given command performances at the White House, at the British, Danish, and Icelandic courts, has performed with the famed Victor Borge, and has been featured in many television and radio broadcasts.
In 1996, he received an encyclical and the Sts. Sahak and Mesrob Medallion from the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin I. This year he received the Presidential “Movses Khorenatsi” Medal. On the occasion of the Aram Khachaturian Centennial in 2003, he was appointed the “representative” of Armenia’s Ministry of Culture in the diaspora. A well-known Komitas specialist, Arzruni in 2008, was also awarded the Komitas Conservatory’s coveted title, “Honored Professor” by Armenia’s Ministry of Culture.
For tickets to the April 5 concert at Merkin Hall, contact the Merkin Concert Hall Box Office at (212) 501 -330.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-Atlantic