Music: Armenian composer’s "lost" concerto to gain momentum in Charlottesville

PanArmenian, Armenia
Oct 25 2017
Armenian composer's "lost" concerto to gain momentum in Charlottesville

The Crozet Community Orchestra will perform the "lost" concerto of Arno Babajanian November 11 in Charlottesville, Virginia, wvtf reports.

Babajanian is a brilliant composer from Armenia who, aside from classical pieces,wrote film scores and popular songs for Russian crooners during the Soviet era.

“Many composers, during the Soviet times, were hired to write music for movies and cartoons," says Monika Chamasyan — a concert violinist from Virginia who made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 2009. " Even composers like Shostakovich and Prokofiev were doing that.”

Chamasyan first heard this concerto in Armenia at a memorial service for Babajanian in 1983.

“During the 60’s and 70’s my teacher, Willi Mokatzian, was a respected soloist and a close friend to Babajanian," she recalls. "This concerto was dedicated to him.”

Years later, after she had moved to America, Chamasyan met Phillip Clark – conductor of the Crozet Community Orchestra, .and told him about the concerto.

“He said, ‘Let’s do it!”

But doing it proved more complicated than either one expected. It took months to find the score – a guide to what every member of the orchestra would play at once. That was of no use to the individual players.

“So you have to present a part specifically for a first violin that they can put on the stand," Clark explains. "They don’t see any of the other music. They just hear it.”

And Chamasyan couldn’t find those individual scores.

“She said they’d got lost in the Soviet breakup," he says. "Apparently lots of people went into the music library and just took what they wanted. There’s was no structure — no policing.”

Clark decided to re-create those parts one by one.

“From a 230-240 page score, that’s a lot of copying, and it did take me three years to do it,” he says.

And that was with help from a computer program called Finale.

“Which is good, because I can’t read my own writing anyway," Clark jokes. "I think about Mozart and Beethoven. They must have spent half their lives correcting proofs and stuff like that.”

And Monika Chamasyan is equally excited – preparing to solo with the orchestra on what is likely the North American debut of Babajanian’s concerto.

“I feel blessed that I’m going to be playing this long lost concerto that was dedicated to my teacher, and I hope that I can give Babajanian some of the recognition that he deserves.”

The orchestra will perform November 11 at Aldersgate Church in Charlottesville – a day chosen pretty much at random. It turned out to be the day the composer died. The following day, November 12th, the Community Orchestra will play at the Baptist Church in Crozet. Admission is free. In Charlottesville, I’m Sandy Hausman.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS