Friday, June 06, 2014

CCC 104 - Loris Ohannes Chobanian

Armenian-American composer Loris Ohannes Chobanian is this week's  Consonant Classical Challenge feature. In addition to being a respected educator, Chobanian is also a professional classical guitarist, and a talented conductor. As might be expected, Chobanian has composed a significant amount of music for guitar and guitar ensembles -- as well as the lute.

Chobanian's music has a practical feel to it. It's sometimes complex, but never impossible to play. Perhaps his experience as a conductor and performer make him sympathetic to the challenges of the players.

Chobanian uses tonality in innovative ways. His chordal structures are often triadic, and move about freely, unconstrained by the notions of major and minor keys. There are clear tonal centers in Chobian's works, though, that give the listener a point of reference. The distance the music travels from that reference point provides dramatic tension, and its return brings about a satisfying resolution.

Chobanian "Requiem April 24," uses modal harmonic motion to weaken the sense of major and minor keys. At the same time, it frees Chobanian to move the music in unexpected directions. And because most of it is supported by triads, the audience is never lost.

"Four Legends for String Orchestra" was written for the Baldwin-Wallace Junior Youth Orchestra. Individually, the parts don't require much in the way of technique -- ideal for younger players. Chobanian compensates by using rich harmonies, and simple counterpoint, creating a work that's engaging to listen to as a legitimate concert work, rather than a student exercise piece.

"Dowland in Armenia" combines renaissance musical structure with Armenian folk inflections in a sophsiticated work that's far more than just an arrangement of John Dowland tunes. And because Chobnian is a guitarist himself, the music lays quite well on the instrument.

Just how skillful is Chobanian as a guitarist? Here he is performing his work "Lament for Homeland."


Loris Chobanian has enjoyed a successful career as a performer, conductor, and a composer. He's enjoyed several important commissions by major ensembles. He's composed large amount of orchestral music, as well as chamber works, and -- of course -- guitar works. He's also written a number of works for wind ensemble that should be heard by a wider audience.

It's a shame his music isn't programmed more often -- and I'm not just talking about his guitar works. I, for one, would like to hear Chobanian's cello concerto in performance sometime.

Recommended Recordings:

Concierto del Fuego (The Music of Loris Ohannes Chobanian)

Chamber Works With Guitar

Jamerica: American Music for the Guitar Quartet

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