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Concert in Memory of the Victim’s of the Armenian Genocide: The Khachaturian Trio Performs at Southbank Centre in London

Concert in Memory of the Victim’s of the Armenian Genocide: The Khachaturian Trio Performs at Southbank Centre in London

By Hasmik Harutunyan


The Khachaturian Trio opened the sequence of much awaited concerts and recitals by outstanding Armenian and foreign artists to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Great Britain. The concert was held on Monday the 13th of April and was sponsored by AGBU London and AGCCC, supported by the Armenian Embassy in London; the organiser of the concert Mrs. Regina Parkev of the RP Musical Management – all organisers and sponsors should be congratulated for this wonderful celebration of the Armenian classical music in Southbank Centre.


The current concert by Khachaturian Trio was my third one in the past six months – in London and in Moscow (the hometown of the violinist Karen Shahgaldyan of the Trio). Last autumn in St. Yegishe Armenian Church the Trio performed popular pieces by Armenian composers, while in Skriabin Hall in Moscow they showcased vastly enjoyable selection of chamber music by European classics from Mozart, Brahms and Dvorak. However, for their Southbank recital, Khachaturian Trio had carefully selected a well-balanced programme of twentieth century chamber music. The cosy Purcell Hall of around 300 seats in the Southbank Centre was packed with music lovers, including members of Armenian and Russian communities, as well as musicians, directors and critics: this was the perfect opportunity for the Trio to showcase classical masterpieces of Armenian composers and also an intense composition by Hungarian composer of the 20th century. Armine Grigoryan on the piano, Karen Shahgaldyan on the violin and Karen Kocharyan on the cello demonstrated their individual musicianship as well as their devotion for ensemble playing.


After two musical arrangements of short pieces Krounk and Vagarshapat Dance by the celebrated Armenian composer Komitas, the trio performed another crowd pleasing piece by the Armenian composer Edouard Mirzoyan entitled Shushanik, where the piano, the cello and the violin took turns to exhibit the harmonious beauty of this romantic love song-confession.


However, it was the challenging sextet by Hungarian composer Erno Dohnanyi that was rewarded by standing ovation from the Southbank public. The Khachaturian Trio were joined by three talented British musicians – Clifton Harrison on viola; Sam Pearce on horn and Rosemary Taylor on clarinet to perform Dohnanyi’s sextet in C major, Op. 37– a contemporary and technically testing composition with nineteenth century musical influences, yet containing elements of twentieth century jazz to create a distinctive and complicated four-movement opus, was performed with fervent vitality, where the attentive interaction of all instrumentalists was fascinating to watch and to listen.


The second part of the recital began with the solo recital from the magnificent pianist and the principal of the trio, Miss Armine Grigoryan, performing Aram Khachaturian’s Toccata in E flat minor for piano. This composition, despite being written in the early years of the composer’s musical life; creates a composite piano canvas with spiralling speed and ferocious tempo with an underlying beautiful, simple folk tune, so characterist of Khachaturian at his best. Miss Armine Grigoryan is an award-winning pianist, member of the jury of piano competitions, as well as the Curator of Aram Khachaturian Museum in Yerevan. Miss Grigoryan’s solo performance at Southbank entrenched once again why she is the “jewel in the crown” of this successful musical partnership. She is in the company of well-merited violinist Karen Shahgaldyan from Moscow and talented cellist Karen Kocharyan from Yerevan, accomplished soloists sounding persuasive both in solo passages and ensemble playing. Though classical in style, no instrument of Khachaturian Trio is subordinate to others; they are all attentive and strong participants of this three-way musical conversation.


In the second half of the recital the Khatchatrian Trio performed Rachmaninov’s Elegy Number 1 in G minor, captivating the listeners with its post-romantic, melancholic mood; this piece seemed well-suited for the distinctive musical style of the Khachaturian Trio, allowing each instrument to shine in solo passages, and yet to fuse together to create an emotionally intense musical narrative in a single compact movement.


One of my favourite choices of the programme was Babadjanian’s Piano Trio in F sharp minor. Arno Babajanian, one of the greatest classical composers in the USSR of the past century, doesn’t seem celebrated sufficiently by Western artists, unfortunately. The Khachaturian Trio gave a tribute to the great Armenian composer by their interpretation with incredible vigour, transmitting the melodious harmony and the technical difficulty of Babadjanian’s chamber masterpiece.


The evening ended with not one but few encores: the most memorable ones were the instrumental arrangement of the gorgeously tender song entitled Nocturne by Arno Babajanian as well as the everlasting Sabre Dance from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane.


The Khachaturian Trio gave a gripping performance opening the series of concerts by renowned artists to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Great Britain. With hopes and expectations of the Armenian nation for 2015 set so high, such successful recitals in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide will certainly receive much needed media attention in the UK.  Again and again Armenian people’s response to the historical injustice of not recognising the Armenian Genocide of 2015 by Turkey is through their ardent dedication to music and culture, progress and peace.


Hasmik Harutunyan


London, 14 April 2015

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