By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN — Every Armenian knows (or should know) Komitas Vardapet. He was the great musicologist, musician and composer who literally founded modern classical Armenian music and whose songs, dances and liturgical works play a prominent role in our musical culture. But perhaps fewer people know about the influence of Germany on his work. On September 5 in Berlin, a gathering of scientists, politicians and artists convened to honor Komitas, unveiling a bronze commemorative plaque at the Humboldt University, which was the composer’s alma mater.
The ceremony was moderated by Prof. Armenuhi Drost-Abgarjan, the leading Armenologist and director of the MESROB Center for Armenian Studies at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, who introduced the speakers, beginning with Prof. Jan Hendrik Olbertz, president of the Humboldt University. It was he who has led several joint Armenian-German projects over the years during his tenure as Minister of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt, the state responsible for cultural, scientific and educational relations with Armenia. Representing the Republic of Armenia was Dr. Armen Martirosyan, ambassador to Germany.
Among the guests who had traveled to Berlin from Yerevan for the event was the Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan, under whose patronage the project was carried out, in collaboration with Martirosyan, architect Karl van Suntum of the university and public relations director Petra Schubert.
As Poghosyan explained, a special competition had been launched for the design to artist Nara Mendelyan. When the plaque was ceremoniously unveiled, Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, Primate of the Armenian Church in Germany, recited a prayer in Armenian and Manfred Richter, former dean of the Berlin Cathedral, offered a prayer in German.
As Drost-Abgaryan noted, “two renowned specialists of Armenian music and its links to oriental and European music had been invited from Germany and Armenia” — Dr. Regina Randhofer, musicologist from the Sachsen Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, and Prof. Mher Navoyan, musicologist and historian from the Yerevan State Conservatory named after Komitas. Randhofer, who specializes in the cultural history of the Mediterranean and Near East, teaches and conducts research at universities in Halle, Budapest and Jerusalem, among others. Navoyan, who has published numerous works on medieval Armenian music, is