Armenian News Network / Groong


Armenian News Network / Groong
January 31, 2008
Entertainment Wire

by Sahan Arzruni


Zankel Hall, the mid-size auditorium at New York's Carnegie Hall
complex, is ideally suited for classical chamber music concerts. On the
evening of Saturday January 26, 2008, however, a different sort of
group, the Shoghaken Ensemble from Armenia, was spotlighted; it featured
eight musicians who played native instruments, sang and danced.

It appears that Carnegie Hall Corporation has decided to regularly
invite such ethnic groups to showcase their artistic ability in a house
designed basically for "serious" music. A few months ago another
ensemble performed Turkish and Kurdish music there. Earlier, it was
Kohar, also from Armenia, the remarkably popular spectacle, that
thrilled audiences.

Shoghaken Ensemble was founded in 1991, right after the country's
independence. It is among the best known and most active native groups
whose purpose is to retain and propagate the indigenous folk music of
historic Armenia. 

The folk troupe was at its best in works designed for the instrumental
ensemble, such as Zurni Tringi, a ceremonial dance music;
Unabi-Marali-Shushiki, melodies transcribed and originally set for piano
by Komitas; and Tamzara, the well-known dance tune. Vocalist Aleksan
Harutyunyan's rendition of Sayat-Nova's Kamancha was touching and his
give-and-take with kamanchist Vardan Baghdasaryan was inspired. Arguably
the most accomplished among the musicians was kanonist Karine
Hovhannisyan, who performed Khachatur Avetisyan's Tokat with zest.

Although the presentation was done professionally, it would have been
highly desirable for an outsider to take a critical look at the group's
performance practices. For example, rather than coming forward in front
of a microphone, it would have been more effective had the performers
with a solo part stayed in their places, perhaps standing, underlining
the idea of an ensemble. The dance numbers were rather poor, especially
those by Mr. Baghdasaryan whose movements were simply awkward. Dudukist
Gevorg Dabaghyan emphasized the agility of the instrument at the expense
of the tone; I missed the soulful sound of the king of Armenian
instruments. Other musicians in the group included Hasmik Harutyunyan,
vocals and oud; Levon Tevanyan, various wind instruments; Grigor
Takushyan, duduk; and Kamo Khachaturian, dhol. 

It's good to have groups such as Shoghaken visit the West to show off
their creative constructs. It is hoped that they are also exposed to
alternate ways of presenting similar material by kindred spirits in
order to improve their artistic undertaking.

It was a sold-out house.

Master pianist Sahan Arzruni enjoys an international career, and is
also known as a composer, ethnomusicologist, producer, teacher,
lecturer, writer, recording artist and broadcasting personality.
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