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Classical Music Review

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By Women
Piano Works by Armenian Women Composers


Composers: various
Performed by: Şahan Arzruni (piano)
Label: AGBU / Positively Armenian
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 14 June 2024

Two of the earliest women composers in the world were Armenian: Sahakdukht and Khosrovidukht in the 8th century. The Armenian pianist Şahan Arzruni has recorded an album celebrating women composers from the region. By Women: piano works by Armenian women composers” is released via AGBU / Positively Armenian...

By Women: Piano Works by Armenian Women Composers consists almost entirely of world premiere recordings. From Lucy (Lusine) Hazarabedian – the first Armenian woman to write specifically for the piano – to 2024 Pulitzer Prize finalist Mary Kouyoumdjian, the music on By Women spans 150 years. Hazarabedian composed 'The Nightingale of Armenia' when she was 16 years old, and died tragically young six years later. Kouyoumdjian wrote 'I Haven’t the Words' in 2020 during the racial reckoning of George Floyd's murder and subsequent protests. The composer describes the composition as a "sonic journal entry".

The album includes music by Koharik Gazarossian, a Constantinople-born student of Paul Dukas. Gazarossian lived across from the founder of the Armenian National School of Music, Komitas. After Komitas’ exile in the Armenian genocide, Gazarossian copied many of his manuscripts of folk songs and used them as the basis of her own works, including the two preludes on this album. Alicia Terzian's 'Ode to Vahan' was written for Arzruni on a commission by Mr. & Mrs. Vahakn Hovnanian. The work is based on a liturgical chant created by Khosrovidukht in the 8th century, which continues to be sung in the Armenian Church today.

Of historical and culturally important as this release is, it's not going to be an easy listen for everyone. With such a diverse cross section of music to choose from there's bound to be a number of pieces that you won't appreciate. Alicia Terzian 'Ode to Vahan-Arzruni' was were I seriously started to lose interest. Discordant piano, wailing vocals and some sort of Armenian narrative voice over just about sent me spiraling off into madness.

On a technical point, and while it's not a huge issue it's still something that should have been addressed by the production. You can quite clearly hear the pianist's intake of breath regularly. I know this is an issue on occasions with these sort of recordings, but it is quite distracting on the quieter, more reflective parts.

Whilst this is historically and culturally enriching... It's also not one I'll be digging out all that often.

Track listing:

01 - Allegro (2:10)
02 - Moderato cantabile (3:54)
03 - Presto (1:56)
04 - Prelude (4:04)

05 - Prelude: "My Child, Your Mother is Dead" (3:19)
06 - Prelude: "Your Name is Shushan" (2:40)

07 - "I Haven't the Words" (3:26)

08 - "Dance-Song" (3:43)

09 - “The Bells of Ani” (5:40)

10 - Prelude in E-flat minor (3:56)
11 - Prelude in G minor (1:52)
12 - Prelude in B-flat minor (2:35)
13 - Prelude in E-flat minor (1:48)
14 - Prelude in B-flat minor (4:18)
15 - Prelude in F-sharp minor (2:48)

16 - “Ode to Vahan” (9:58)

17 - “The Nightingale of Armenia” (2:57)


Darren Rea