FRESNO — A captivating night of beautiful music of many styles performed by individuals whose musicality was beyond reproach. That’s just one way of describing the concert that was recently presented by the Armenian Museum of Fresno. Dr. Anna Hamre, of California State University (CSU) Fresno, the music director of Fresno Master Chorale and Fresno Community Choir described the performance as “Spectacular. All three artists were simply splendid.” Indeed, any audience member could tell you something similar.
On May 31, an audience of around 230 people — a significant number of whom were non-Armenians — was treated to a concert of duo-piano and soprano at CSU Fresno’s Concert Hall. The concert featured soprano, Anahit Nersessian, and pianists, Naira Shahsouvarian and Maria Amirkhanian. “This is our way of dedicating this program to the memory of all those who lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide,” said Maria Amirkhanian.
The two-hour performance was very well received by the audience. So familiar was some of the music that some audience members could be heard humming tunes that they recognized and connected with. At the end of each set, the performers received a standing ovation and the cheers of an excited crowd.
The first half featured Anahit Nersessian, with Naira Shahsouvarian as her accompanist. The first five pieces were classics of the soprano repertoire such as Cleopatra’s Aria from Handel’s “Julius Caesar”, Lehar’s “Giuditta” and Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, while the rest of Nersessian’s set was dedicated to Armenian music from the folk, liturgical, and classical traditions. This included Gomidas’ Kele Kele, Yerginkn Ambele and Gakave Yerke and Doloukhanian’s Yeraz, among others. Especially remarkable was her dexterous melisma in her performance of Sayat Nova’s Kamancha, which traversed the entirety of her voice.
Nersessian has a rich and powerful voice, which does not falter in the extremes of her expansive register. Her fortes were breath-taking and so strong as to fill an entire room on a stage shared with a grand piano (and two at full volume). Her coloratura had such steadfast consistency as to make her highest notes incredibly magnificent, but without any sense of being forced or a strain on her voice.
The second half of the concert featured Maria Amirkhanian and Naira Shahsouvarian performing duo-piano with an emphasis on Armenian music. Their set included Bach’s Concerto in F Minor and suite from St. Matthew’s Passion, Avetisyan’s Cherry Tree and four pieces by Aram Khachaturian, notably Sabre Dance from “Gayane” and Aegina’s Dance from “Spartacus.” This magnificent evening was closed by a new arrangement of Rousinian’s Giligia for two pianos and soprano by Karine Gasparyan.