BOSTON — The Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Andris Nelsons, will present the world premiere of Ascending Light, a new work for organ and orchestra by celebrated composer Michael Gandofi, written in memory of the late Berj Zamkochian, a frequent collaborator with the BSO and world renowned organist. The new work will be performed on March 26, 27, 28 and 31, with Olivier Latry as soloist performing on Symphony Hall’s remarkable, recently restored Aeolian- Skinner organ. Latry is one of several organists appointed by the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.
Gandolfi’s Ascending Light — inscribed to the memory of Berg Zamkochian in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide — is supported by funding from the Gomidas Organ Fund, established by Zamkochian in 1970. The Gomidas Organ Fund originally approached the BSO with the proposal for a new work for organ and orchestra several years after Zamkochian’s death in 2004.
Gandolfi’s dynamic, pattern-infused, colorful works have received previous BSO commissions, including The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (premiered by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra) and Night Train to Perugia (premiered by the BSO in 2012). Gandolfi’s new work, which has been described as an expression of sorrow, hope, and reconciliation, shares a program with Gustav Mahler’s powerful Symphony No. 6, arguably Mahler’s most heartfelt symphonic statement, which his wife Alma called “the most completely personal of his works.” Gandolfi’s Ascending Light will be the second world premiere of the BSO’s 2014-15 season, with Lakes Awake at Dawn, for chorus and orchestra, by Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds, receiving its world premiere under the direction of Nelsons last November.
Zamkochian devoted his career to the Armenian people. He established the Gomidas Organ Fund to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Armenian composer, priest, and ethnomusicologist Gomidas Vartabet. Gomidas witnessed many of the historical events that resulted in the death of over a million Armenians and attempted annihilation of their history and existence in Turkey, which led to his collapse and eventual death in a French asylum.
Berj Zamkochian performed an annual concert to benefit the Gomidas Organ Fund for over thirty years in the Methuen Memorial Music Hall on the instrument used by the BSO in the Old Boston Music Hall prior to its removal and relocation from the BSO’s original home. The Gomidas Organ Fund supplied organs for over 40 years to many schools, conservatories, and churches in the US and Europe. During his visits to Russia and Armenia, Zamkochian learned that his mother had a previous husband who was beheaded during the atrocities, leaving her with a young infant daughter. On his return home, he sought veracity from his mother and received confirmation of a horrible past she wanted to forget and erase from her mind after she emigrated to the US. Zamkochian lived to uphold and embrace Armenian traditions, and to keep the spirit of the Armenian people alive through his music.