Friday, September 12, 2014

CCC 114 - Vahram Sargsyan

This week the Consonant Classical Challenge looks at Armenian composer Vahram Sargsyan. Though Armenian, Sargsyan studied in Canada, and eventually made his home there. His music has elements of his Slavic background, tempered with post-modern elements.

Sargsyan's catalog is mostly made up of choral music. Like many contemporary choral composers, he tends to write with a strong tonal foundation. At times, his harmonies can become quite thick and obscure that tonal base, but usually not for long.

His instrumental works, though fewer in number, seem to be far more adventuresome than his choral compositions. The melodies are often disjunct, with chord clusters built with seconds. To my ears, they sound post-modern, using the angularity of twelve-tone music for the melodies, but keeping an underlying tonality (albeit one that often strays far afield).

Joyful Light is a good example of Sargsyan's choral work. The music moves slowly, with long, melismatic passages, recalling those of Byzantine chant. The way Sargsyan voices his chords further strengthens the work's Slavic character.

Tribulationes was commissioned by the Boston Choral Festival. It's sung by that organization in this video, the strong Slavic character of the music coming through even when sung by American choristers.

Sargsyan's Selbstvergessenheit for 2 clarinets, cello and piano shows the other side of this talented composer. The music is more aggressively dissonant, though it still maintains a tonal center. Although the character is more cosmopolitan than Slavic, it's still compelling and expressive.

Selbstvergessenheit on SoundCloud

I wish more of Vahram Sargsyan's music was available for audition. While choirs have embraced his music, it's still a somewhat rare thing to hear his works performed in concert. I recommend his Sound Cloud page.

Vahram Sargsyan on SoundCloud

There are enough works posted to give a good impression of the composer's style -- and just enough to wet my appetite for more.

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