Tigran Mansurian: I am the musician of the Armenian language

Known as the greatest living Armenian composer, Tigran Mansurian was in Istanbul for a special occasion. Commissioned by the 43rd Istanbul Music Festival, the premiere of Mansurian’s work titled ‘Sonata da Chiesa for Viola and Piano, In Memoriam Gomidas Vartabed’ was held in the evening of June 10 at the Surp Vortvots Vorodman Church with a concert titled ‘A World Premiere with Kim Kashkashian & Péter Nagy’.

In an interview with Istanbul based Agos weekly Mansurian told about his friend Parajanov, composing film scores, the feelings he has had while visiting Turkey for the first time.

“It was 1969, and I was 30 years old when Parajanov asked me to compose the score of ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’. “I am travelling to Kiev, I’ll come back when you’re finished,” he said, gave me the film, and went. There was no sound in the film, but the images were complete. For three months, I worked every day, from 9 in the morning until 9 in the evening. It was fascinating work. Parajanov would transform even the simplest things in such ways… He would elevate them from the ground into the sky, and then, take them even higher than the sky. He would conjure up incredible symbols from very simple objects, giving them artistic forms. I tried to do for sounds what Parajanov had done with images,” Mansurian said.

Speaking about the difference between the film scores and other compositions, the composer said:It’s a completely different kind of work. My approach changes entirely when I am composing a film score. Because the music I make for a film does not belong to me but to the film, and every film has its own unique music. So I become a different person from one film to the next. I have composed scores for more than hundred films, and each work is different. But the music that belongs to me, that has stayed the same over the years. No doubt, some things change, but I can say that the essence of my music has always remained the same.”

“There is a truth within me, and when that truth meets with the work you are doing, then you know you are doing something right,” Mansurian said. Speaking of the source of that truth, he said: “I love Armenian music. Our culture has been conveyed to the present day from very ancient times. For instance, ‘Anganimk’, from the 5th century… ‘Anganimk’ is a hymn that takes me back 1,500 years. In a single second, I go back 1,500 years and return to the present day. This journey is my wealth. And this journey of immense wealth has been travelled by a great number of people throughout history. The work of each and every one of them has been inscribed along this path.”

“I believe that the language a musician speaks is his or her greatest teacher. You constantly speak and hear this language. Every language has its unique phonetics and intonation. For instance, in some languages the emphasis is on the final syllable of the word. That is how it is in Armenian, and also in French; but it is entirely different in Russian… So in the works of a musician who speaks Armenian, you observe influences unique to that language, and that musician becomes ‘the musician of the Armenian language’. I, too, am a musician of the Armenian language,” the composer noted.

Tigran Mansurian also spoke about three names in Armenian classical music:

“Komitas is our father, he is the father of us all. He brought us everything about us, laid it all out before us and said, “Here, this is what we are”. And the whole world saw this, began to discover Komidas, and that discovery continues to this day

“Aram Khachaturian came to say, “We lost one and a half million of us, but we continue to live”. And he made that heard with such a voice that the whole world heard him, and they came to know him and Armenian music.”

“Tigran Hamasyan is a very sweet musician. His singing takes me back to Armenia. Whether with his piano or his voice, he shows that he is a child of those lands. He has a very rich memory. It’s fascinating how he has such an immense memory. I can’t tell whether the music is borne from him, or he from the music.”

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