Sunday, 16 July 2017

Armenian remembrance: Tigran Mansurian's powerful Requiem


Tigran Mansurian - Requiem - ECM
Tigran Mansurian Requiem; RIAS Kammerchor, Münchener Kammerorchester, Anja Petersen, Andrew Redmond, Alexander Liebreich
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jul 7 2017
Star rating: 4.0

Though using a Latin text, Mansurian's work is suffused with the Armenian liturgy making a sober and striking piece

The Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1915-1917 still resonates and it affected the family of the Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian in the most direct way. This new disc from ECM is Mansurian's powerful Requiem for soprano and baritone soloists, choir and string orchestra, written in 2010-11 and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The Requiem is performed by RIAS Kammerchor, Münchener Kammerorchester, Anja Petersen (soprano), Andrew Redmond (baritone), Alexander Liebreich (conductor).

The work is a fascinating hybrid, because the Armenian Church (which severed official ties with both Rome and Constantinople in 554) has different theological and philosophical views to the Roman Catholic Church so that the services for the commemoration of the dead are very different.


So, though Tigran Mansurian has used the text of the Latin requiem mass, the setting is infused with the influence of the Armenian liturgy. It it almost as if Mansurian, himself a product of the Armenian diaspora, is having a dialogue with himself. Highly evocative unison chant passages, fully redolent of the Armenian liturgy, are interrupted by powerful choral and string passages which evoke mid-20th century Europe, particularly the angular string writing.

This is quite a sober and thought-provoking work. Certainly not new-age or ambient, it isn't minimal either, but Mansurian evokes a mood of serious contemplation and thoughtfulness for all the flurries of drama, and the work ends in the profound simplicity of the 'Agnus Dei'. The text used is from the standard requiem mass, though Mansurian only uses a few stanzas of the 'Dies irae'. But constantly you apprehend the text in a new light, as if Mansurian's Armenian point of view is being made apparent.

In a moving note in the CD booklet, Mansurian talks of the difficulty of writing the work, the need to reconcile the two points of view. There is a metaphor here, too, about the need to reconcile points of view about the genocide and the West's general indifference to the tragedy.

The work receives a fine performance from RIAS Kammerchor and Münchener Kammerorchester, conductor Alexander Liebreich with soloists Anja Petersen and Andrew Redmond. This is a disc definitely worth exploring and the work's very practical form will hopefully make groups interested in performing it.



Tigran Mansurian (born 1939) - Requiem
RIAS Kammerchor
Münchener Kammerorchester
Anja Petersen (soprano)
Andrew Redmond (baritone)
Alexander Liebreich (conductor)
Recorded January 2016, Jesus-Christus-Kirche Dahlem, Berlin
ECM NEW SERIES 2508 4814101 (ECM 2508) 1CD
Available from Amazon.

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