by Elizabeth Edds Kougasian
New York, NY – A much anticipated tradition for AMAA supporters on the East Coast is the Annual Spring Concert to benefit children of Armenia and Karabagh. This year’s concert, held on the afternoon of Sunday, May 31, 2009 was widely heralded as one of its most successful. The program artfully combined three elements: European classical music, contemporary Argentinean songs and outstanding selections from the Armenian repertoire.
Elbiz Baghdikian, Chairperson of the AMAA Summer Camp and Christmas Committee which organized the concert, greeted guests and shared some background on the summer camps program which extends summer activities to over 10.000 children. Peter Kougasian also welcomed guests in his dual capacity as an AMAA Vic President and as Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York where the concert took place. Rev. Dr. Peter Doghramji, pastor of the New York Church delivered an Invocation at the beginning of the concert.
The audience was privileged to hear the world –wide debut of the SIMA Trio: Ani Kalayjian, violoncello; Sofya Melikyan, piano; and Sami Merdinian, violin. Joining them was Mezzo- Soprano, Solange Merdianian. These four musicians, all accomplished as soloists in their own right, collaborated to produce a thoughtful program that was perfectly executed.
The reverent spirit of the Invocation was maintained in the opening number, Erbarme dich, Mein Gott (Have Mercy Lord) from the St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. A trio of Gomidas folk tunes followed.
Ms. Merdinian demonstrated her prowess as an interpreter of song moving effortlessly between shifting moods. In her dramatic rendition of the plaintive lullaby Oror the lyrics were underscored by the whispering tones of the Trio accompaniment. Shifting gears, Ms. Merdinian delivered Shogher Jan with its melodic passages that danced in the listener’s imagination. The more somber Akh Maral Jan closed this section of Armenian art songs.
The next piece, Haydn’s Trio in C Major No. 21 showcased the artistry of the Sima Trio’s performance. Their precise attacks, phrasing and sensitive balance were a pleasure. Many performers have commented on the outstanding acoustics possessed by the Sanctuary in the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York. Even with a full house the Trio’s interpretation of Haydn’s familiar themes and rang through the hall with clarity and conviction.
After intermission, the audience was treated to works of 20th Century Argentinean composer Carlos Guastavino. A prolific composer with over 500 works to his credit, he is best known for his songs for piano and voice and has been referred to by some as “the Schubert of the Pampas. The first piece, Pueblito, mi pueblo (Little town, my town) with its evocative longing for a far away home seemed to resonate especially with the predominately Armenian audience.
The concert concluded with a Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano by Arno Babadjanian, a highly regarded composer in the former Soviet Union whose works are not widely known in America. His gift for music was noticed by Aram Khachaturian who recommended enrolling the young Arno in a proper musical training program. At the tender age of seven, Babadjanian enrolled in the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory. A colleague of Rostropovich and Shostakovich, Babadjanian was a concert pianist, teacher and ethnomusicologist in addition to being a composer. The Babadjanian piece the Sima Trio chose to play was physically demanding and emotionally charged with rich tonal textures and intense dynamics building to a brilliant climax.
Showing their versatility the Sima Trio thrilled the audience with a jazzy encore by composer Astor Piazolla called Prima Vera Portena. The performers received a spontaneous standing ovation, and at the ensuing reception graciously received countless expressions of appreciation and gratitude from the delighted members of the audience.