The music of Armenia has its origins in the Armenian Highlands, where people traditionally sang popular folk songs, with a long musical tradition, that was primarily collected and developed by Komitas, a prominent priest and musicologist, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Armenian music has been presented internationally by composers Aram Khachaturian, Arno Babadjanian, duduk player Djivan Gasparyan, composer Ara Gevorgyan, pop singer Sirusho, amid others.
One of the oldest types of Armenian music is the Armenian chant, the most common kind of religious music in Armenia, many of these chants are ancient in origin, extending to pre-Christian times, while others are relatively modern, including several composed by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, (simply) Armenian alphabet’s inventor.
Under Soviet domination, Armenian folk music was taught in state-sponsored conservatoires, instruments played include qamancha (similar to a violin), kanun (dulcimer), dhol (hand drum), oud (lute), zurna, blul (ney), shvi and saz.
Other instruments are often used such as violin and clarinet, and the duduk is Armenia’s national instrument. Traditional Armenian folk music as Armenian church music is not based on the European tonal system but on a system of Tetrachords, the last note of one tetrachord also serves as the first note of the next, which makes Armenian folk music based on a theoretically endless scale. (!)
Let’s go to our artist:
Konstantin Aghaparoni Orbelyan (July 29, 1928 – April 24, 2014) an Armenian pianist, composer, head of the State Estrada Orchestra of Armenia. He was a People’s Artist of USSR (1979), Union of Soviet Composers Board member, Armenian Composer’s Union secretary since 1983, Vice-President of All-Soviet Musical Society of the USSR. Also the uncle of his namesake Constantine Orbelian, he has been acknowledged as a pianist and improviser since he was in his early teens.
At age fifteen, he was invited to perform with the Armenian State Pop Orchestra, formed in 1938 in Yerevan, and subsequently became its conductor. Under his able direction for thirty-six years, the Orchestra rose to become one of the most accomplished of its kind. As a result, it came to represent Soviet jazz over thirty countries in Eastern and Western Europe, Near East, Africa, and Southeast Asia!
Graduating in composition and piano from Edward Mirzoyan’s class of composition at Yerevan’s Komitas Conservatory in 1963, Orbelian achieved early recognition for his String Quartet, winning first prize at the International Competition in Moscow, where the chairman of the Competition’s panel of judges was the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Orbelian’s rising talent and success were noted with great appreciation by the doyen of Armenian music of the time: Aram Khachaturian.
Next followed the premiere of Orbelian’s first symphony in Moscow’s famous Tchaikovsky Hall by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra. For this symphony, Orbelian was awarded the title ‘Laureate of the All-Union Competition’. His ballet symphony Immortality was composed in 1975 and performed by the Yerevan Opera and Ballet Theater. This work, too, won first prize in an All-Union Competition devoted to the music stage. One of the Orchestra’s highlights was its American tour (1975) which included twenty-five concerts in major cities from coast to coast. (!)
In the beginning of the ’90s after the collapse of the Soviet Union working with the orchestra and creating music became very difficult. In 1992 Konstantin Orbelian moved to San Francisco, spending his last moments in Los Angeles. Ever versatile in the scope of his repertoire, he has written musical scores for many films and stage musicals, music for theater, not to mention his extensive work in jazz/pop music.
Recently, more than 8 cd’s have been released with compositions for symphonic orchestra, as well as jazz and pop music, with an endless number of awards placing the maestro in one of the highest recognition spots throughout the globe.
Let’s go to our album:
Thanks to the fantastic work of our friends from Soviet Groove, we’ve been able to rediscover the pinnacle of Jazz, Pop, and Soul from countries like Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, etc. At a time when the Iron Curtain still ruled the old world order, to the surprise of all, great composers/musicians had an exact idea of what the Western world consumed!
I would go even further, groups like Gunesh, Firyuza, Yalla, Qaya, Sevil, among others, conceived one of the finest meetings between Jazz and Folk music. Our today album is just a first step of a fascinating and little-known aspect of these faraway cultures, mostly supported by legendary Melodiya (Μелодия) label, soon we’ll have an entry solely to this. By now, remain with a great Western-like big-band and վայելել!
The ‘IM’ highlights are Ты Моя Песня (A5) and Вокализ (B4).
A1 Сто Часов Счастья (One Hundred Hours of Happiness)
A2 Твои Следы (Your Footprints)
A3 Назан Яр (Nazan Yar) w/ Larisa Dolina
A4 Восход Солнца (Sunrise)
A5 Ты Моя Песня (You’re my Song) w/ Datevik Hovanesian
B1 Силуэт (Silhouette)
B2 Шум Берез (Noise Birches)
B3 Весенний Экспромт (Spring Impromptu)
B4 Вокализ (Vocalise) w/ Datevik Hovanesian
B5 Спасибо, Жизнь (Thanks for Life)
Мелодия – С60–09733–34