Aznavoorian Duo celebrates the sounds of Armenia
New Classical Tracks - Aznavoorian Duo (Extended)
Aznavoorian Duo — Gems From Armenia (Cedille)
“It's like watching French films. It’s the simplest thing, yet you're bawling your eyes out,” pianist Marta Aznavoorian said. “These pieces are like that for us; they're memories. They're examples of what it means for us to be Armenian.”
The Aznavoorian Duo, which also features her sister, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, makes its debut with the album Gems From Armenia.
“Most Armenians have an extraordinarily strong sense of being Armenian, even if we weren't born there. We both have a strong sense of what it means to be Armenian,” Marta said about their heritage. “This music is like little windows to our memories of our grandparents, and recording it was quite cathartic.”
Why did you dedicate this recording to your grandfather?
Ani: “He was the godfather of our family. All decisions went through him, but he was an extremely loving grandfather, very present in our lives. He'd come over every day. He would have loved these Armenian tunes that reminded him of his childhood, of the sacrifices his parents made when they left Turkey and came to the United States.
“He would have related to all of Komitas’ music that starts the CD. Komitas is thought of as the grandfather of Armenian music. He's the one who created that Armenian flavor that we think of when we hear Armenian music.”
Can you talk about how the album is divided into three Armenian musical eras?
Marta: “Aram Khachaturian was very celebrated while he was alive. He discovered Arno Babajanian, another composer on our disc. Babajanian’s Elegy is one of the piano solo pieces on this disc that was for Khachaturian’s funeral.
“After Babajanian, we move to Alexander Arutunian, who was around the same generation of composers as Khachaturian. Ani and I grew up playing Arutunian’s Impromptu, which is also on this album. It’s become a part of us, so we really couldn't change anything. We could only play it the way we've always played it since we were little kids.
Tell us about Peter Boyer.
Ani: “Boyer is a wonderful composer. It was an interesting curveball for all of us when this idea came up. Everyone is used to him writing American themes and having this American sound. We wanted to surprise everyone.
“To make it work, we thought, why don't we have this American composer write something based on Armenia. What is a bigger symbol of Armenia than Mount Ararat?”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Aznavoorian Duo — Gems From Armenia (Cedille Store)
Aznavoorian Duo — Gems From Armenia (Amazon)
Ani Aznavoorian (official site)
Marta Aznavoorian (official site)