The Whole Note

The idea for Music from Armenia for Cello and Piano , a Divine Art CD featuring Newfoundland cellist Heather Tuach and the Armenian-Canadian pianist Patil Harboyan , began with a 2012 recital by the duo in Newfoundland that included Alexander Arutiunian’s Impromptu , the short work that opens this disc. The enthusiastic audience reaction to the piece encouraged the performers to search the Armenian cello and piano repertoire for music that would make for an appealing and informative CD. They certainly succeeded.

Armenia was under Soviet Russian rule from 1920 to 1991, and the music here is essentially what you would expect from that background (Arno Babajanian’s Vocalise , for example, is very similar to Rachmaninov’s), but the significant aspect of the CD is its recognition of the importance of the docu­mentation and preservation of Armenian folk music.

The crucial figure in this respect was Gomidas, described in the excellent booklet notes as the founder of Armenian classical music and ethnomusicology, working in much the same manner as his direct contem­porary Béla Bartók in Hungary. Most of his ten short folk songs here are arrangements by cellist Geronty Talalyan of the string quartet versions by Sergei Aslamazian, and they’re highly entertaining.

The one major work on the CD is the Sonata for Cello and Piano Op.35 by Haro Stepanian, who graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory and also collected Armenian melodies from his homeland; the influences of both his Russian training and his Armenian folk music research are evident in a very attractive and effective work.

he whole CD is a fascinating portrait of a musical heritage perhaps most widely repre­sented for most people by the music of Aram Khachaturian, who openly acknowledged his – and Armenian music’s – debt to Gomidas. The performances are rich and full of nuance, and the balance and recorded sound are ideal.

—Terry Robbins