Komitas Piano Project
Piano Works 1906 -1911
Born in recent years of study and research on the Armenian musical tradition, the "Komitas Piano Project" aims to disseminate and make known, especially to the Western public, the extraordinary figure of Vardapet Komitas, who has become an icon and symbol of identity of the Armenian people.
The proposed concert is an ancient and spiritual journey that stages a part of Komitas' piano work, which saw him as the protagonist of a singular process of reviving the traditional Armenian repertoire on a 'western' instrument such as the piano. Considered one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology, Komitas has focused his life on the continuous research and documentation of the rich traditional repertoire of the entire Caucasus and the dissemination of the latter especially in the West. The events of Komitas, which saw him personally involved in what was the Armenian Genocide, have made his figure and his impressive work a supporting pillar for the historical memory, identity and culture of the Armenian people .
In the repertoire presented, which proposes the works written between 1906 and 1911, there are the "Six dances" in which Komitas reports on the piano the different rhythms from various places in Armenia and gestures of traditional instruments such as the tar, the dhol and the shvi; the "12 Pieces for Children" written along the lines of Debussy's "Children's Corner" conceived not only for educational purposes but also for popularization and the "Seven Songs" which trace the melodies of ancient traditional songs with particular attention to the timbre aspect.
To close the concert "Nairi", the suite written by Francesco Di Cristofaro in homage to Komitas and the Armenian musical world.
The "Komitas Piano Project" was released on Cd in 2019 by the Italian-Japanese label DaVinci Classics.
The piano solo show wants to pay tribute to this extraordinary figure; Komitas through his work and his life embodies the Armenian and the history of genocide.
Through his life, his artistic career and his immense research work not only in the Caucasian territory and especially in the re-proposed musical repertoire, Komitas, stands as a striking example of how ethnomusicological work can lead to the protection of an immense intangible and identity heritage , placing itself in this case on the terrible Genocide of the Armenian people caused by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the century.
One of the reasons why Komitas succeeded and reached the interest of several European musicians of his time, lies in his strong ability not so much of composer but of Rielaboratore to report and repropose on instruments of the Western tradition, in this case the piano, the musical identity of the archaic Armenian world, in a brilliant way, without virtuosity and excess, transporting and maintaining the melodic purity typical of traditional instruments such as duduk, tar and shvi and the variety and grandeur of traditional rhythmic formulas entrusted to instruments such as the dhol.
Komitas appears as a guardian of the popular tradition of Armenian music that re-elaborates and enhances the popular peasant melodies using the expressive means of contemporary musical art. This is why he is considered a great ﬁgure for the Armenian people and the father of current Armenian music
In all his piano works it is interesting to note how Vardapet Komitas has never thought and used transcriptions rich in virtuosity and technical reﬁnement typical of an instrument like the piano, leaving space instead and focusing attention on the melodic and rhythmic textures always faithful to traditional Armenian melodies.
A striking example is the “Seven songs”, composed during his lecture series in London in 1911; seven small miniatures designed for piano are small melodic windows on the Armenian musical world, managing to mount small traditional melodies with the typical rhythmic pulsations of Armenian music.
The “Six Dances”, composed and performed by Komitas in Paris in 1916, are probably his most important and articulated work written and conceived for piano. In this work he appears, ﬁrst of all, as an ethnographer, whose task is to realize the wealth of Armenian folk dances preserving, as far as possible, the rhythms and the speciﬁc timbres of some national instruments.
With his indications of the author, the composer tried to bring both the performer and the listener closer to the setting of the action, as well as the appearance and character of certain dance movements. Each dance is identiﬁed with its place of origin: Yerevan, Vagharshapat, Shushi and Karin.
The author tries to recreate through the sound and characteristics of the piano, an instrument far from the real and ancient Armenian folk tradition, some scenarios and timbres of the various Armenian instruments: for example “Het u Araj” and “Shoror” evoke the dhol (the classic Armenian percussion) and svhi (the traditional ﬂute played by shepherds); Shushiki summons the tar (stringed instrument). The last worthy of the cycle, and also the longest and most articulate, is “Shoror of Erzerum”, classiﬁed as a heroic male dance. Komitas clearly indicates that it should be performed “majestically and heroically”, as well as an imitation of the shvi and dhol, which usually accompanied that dance during folk festivals.
In the whole work, the rhythm is rich and ﬂexible, followed by the different melodies harmonized by Komitas with great taste and skill, without ever obscuring the typical identity of the traditional melodies.
Continuing with the idea of re-proposing the traditional Armenian repertorie, transcribed for piano, Komitas introduced in the “Twelve traces for children based on popular themes” some traditional melodies collected during his years of research in an elementary form, easily understandable for young beginner musicians, following the footsteps of the pedagogical works of Bartok and Khachaturian. Completed in Poland in 1910, this set of miniatures includes several popular melodies, many of which also appear as variants. These pieces are mostly very short, in which a simple melody is presented followed by small repeated elements with small rhythmic and melodic developments. The pieces 2, 6 and 10 are any variation of the pieces that precede them. The seventh piece is based on the same song that appears as the ﬁrst of the “Seven Songs”.
Following in the footsteps of the Armenian composer, Nairi, is a tribute by the author Francesco Di Cristofaro to Komitas through 6 small movements, focusing attention on simple and rhythmic melodic plots that reﬂect the Armenian musical world with a more western perspective, almost as a spectator of the great Caucasian musical world.
- Six dances for piano (Vardapet Komitas) 1906
- Seven Songs (Vardapet Komitas) 1911
III Allegro non troppo
IV Allegretto semplice
- Twelve Children's Pieces on Popular Themes (Vardapet Komitas)
- Nairi (Francesco Di Cristofaro)
VII Aras II
"... An exciting and evocative album An act of love for the Armenian tradition."
M.Ricciuti - Iniziativa Repubblicana
"... an honest, inspired and intriguing album offering that focuses on a fascinating sound universe not to be overlooked."
C.De Rosa - Bloogfolk
"... The Italian pianist Francesco Di Cristofaro demonstrates here that he perfectly knows how to immerse himself in the poetic world, so imbued with the spirituality of Komitas ..."
F.Focosi - Kathodik
"... The performances of Father Komitas' Di Cristofaro with great attention to detail and great executive performance have feasted and involved the large audience present for this world premiere. The pieces by are followed in a very concrete and strong impact, where the The short tempos of the various pieces clearly highlighted Komitas' abilities and musical lexicon. The performances of the original pieces dedicated to him by Di Cristofaro are also very beautiful, in line with the music proposed by the author who is the subject of the Piano Recital ... "
M.Cerrito - Scarlattiuberalles
Exodus In Three Parts
experimental // dance // historical // sci-fi
Exodus in Three Parts is a short experimental film that explores the Armenian identity in its many diasporic complexities. Exodus, the first of the three parts, depicts the historical events of the twentieth century including the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 and the Sovietization of Armenia. This Sovietization would eventually lead to a severe economic crisis at its collapse. The exploration of identity continues into the second part, which alludes to the term Sky Blue—a term used to vilify queerness. The character stands as a resistance to cultural conservatism; submerging in the term and existing within its confines. The last part, Farewell, depicts the personal battle between acceptance and rejection. Through dance, the character embraces the past and looks to the future.
Directed by Hrachya Sargsyan
Music by Francesco Di Cristofaro