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Armenians George Gurdjieff (ca. 1866-1949) and Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935) based their compositions on traditional Armenian folk music. During this afternoon concert in Podium Mozaïek, pianist Lusine Grigoryan will play a selection of their works. On authentic instruments, the ensemble then translates this material back to its ‘folk’ sources. Arranger Levon Eskenian will talk about his arrangements and about the composers, their synthesis of East and West, and their ambivalent, in the case of Komitas tragic connection to Constantinople (nowadays Istanbul).
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The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble was founded in 2008 by the Lebanese-born Armenian musician Levon Eskenian. He formed a group of leading Armenian musicians with a view to creating ethnographically authentic arrangements of the music of Gurdjieff and Komitas for authentic Armenian instruments such as the duduk (double reed instrument), the zurna (double reed folk oboe), the pku (single reed folk clarinet), the tar (long-necked lute), the saz (double-string long-necked lute), the kamancheh (vielle), the oud (lute), the quanun (box zither), the daf (frame drum with small cymbals) and the dhol (double-headed drum). Published by the prestigious German label ECM, the ensemble's debut CD Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff received numerous awards, including a Dutch Edison for best world music album.
Komitas is the founder of modern Armenian composed music. He was born in 1869 as Soghomon Soghomonian in Kütahya in what is now Turkey, then part of the Ottoman Empire. Orphaned at a young age, Komitas was taken into a seminary near Yerevan. After his ordination as a priest he took on the name Komitas. As well as spiritual matters, from a young age Komitas was also interested in music; as a boy his singing talents had already been recognised and he studied composition in Berlin. A contemporary of Bela Bartók, Komitas shared the Hungarian composer's great interest in folk music. Collecting thousands of songs, he was the first to chart traditional Armenian music. In 1910 Komitas settled in Constantinople, which was then a world city with an influential Armenian community, and soon became a pivotal figure in the local music scene. However, the Armenian genocide of 1915 had such an impact on him, that he had a complete mental breakdown and would never compose again. In 1919 he moved to a sanatorium in Paris, where he died in 1935.
George I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949) was an influential spiritual leader in the first half of the 20th century. For years he travelled the Middle-East, Central Asia, India and North Africa, encountering a myriad of musical, dance and spiritual traditions along the way. After twenty years of travelling he moved to the West, making a name for himself with his doctrine of 'the harmonious development of man'. As well as his writings, Gurdjieff's legacy is a body of music, including a large collection of piano pieces which he dictated to one of his pupils, the Russian composer and pianist Thomas de Hartmann in the 1920's, having collaborated with him before on the music of Komitas.
In the first of two Holland Festival concerts, The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble combines the music of Gurdjieff with the pioneering Armenian works by Komitas. This evening concert at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ consists of two parts. In the first part, the ensemble plays the music of Gurdjieff, a programme which they have performed before and have recorded onto their award winning CD. The second part is a new programme, in which they will play the music of Komitas.
As well as this evening concert, the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble will also give an afternoon concert at Podium Mozaïek, featuring a special conceptual approach to the piano works of Gurdjieff and Komitas. These works will first be played in their original form on the piano by Lusine Grigoryan, followed by an ensemble version of the same work, arranged by artistic leader Levon Eskenian. In creating his arrangements, Eskenian has used instructions concerning style and genre which Komitas had written in his scores, which suggested that ensemble performances could use traditional Armenian instruments. As Komitas managed to translate typical Armenian folk music genres and instrumental sounds to the piano, without violating the original, in this concert The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble translates the piano works back to their ethnic origins, though in a new version. The programme consists of famous Komitas pieces such as Seven Dances and Msho Shoror. Pianist Lusine Grigoryan is a renowned interpreter of Komitas' work, with extensive knowledge of his musical heritage and aesthetics.